In Cathedral Grove, I found my inner tree.
Here we find ourselves in Vancouver, and I’m alternating between thinking that my kids are going to get bored (since they now are wanting nothing more than to watch TV until their eyes fall out), or that we didn’t leave enough time at all to explore a new city.
This evening, my son said, “I keep finding myself wondering when we’re going to get back to see some really big trees.” He also told me that being in the city all day had given him a headache, which he never gets. It might also have been the very noisy environment at the Science Centre. (The kids enjoyed it thoroughly even though it was under construction. I could have dealt with a lot less crowd, but the Extreme Dinosaurs exhibit, with animatronic creatures was impressive.) Hopefully a day at the park and aquarium tomorrow will be less enclosed and less noisy.
I can say, however, that I won’t repeat this particular type of trip. Too much change, too many places, too many 11 am check-outs, each involving packing. Again. We’ve stayed in… [counting, counting] 23 places since July 3rd. We haven’t really had enough time to enjoy most of the places that we’ve been on this trip. I like getting places, and I like exploring new places. But I don’t like having to leave on time to get somewhere else, and I don’t like having to keep figuring out a new set of logistics every day or two. I turned to my son on the Seabus this evening (which we took across to North Vancouver just to see what it was like) and I said, “I’m not sure I really like travelling.” But what it really is, I think, is that I don’t enjoy long-term travel where you don’t get to just settle down for a while. What this trip has lacked is enough staying in one place to allow down-time. REAL down-time, not just collapsing until you must frantically pack once more. I think I will invoke a three-night minimum on future trips.
It is also possible that I just prefer the wilderness and rural areas to other places. My preferred campground is always the one with 15 sites, not 400. Gabriola island and Illecillewaet, where there was a minimum of “Stuff To Do” were my favourite places on this trip. I could quite happily have spent three more days on the beach on Gabriola, if there had been a kitchen and shower involved. (Actually, a lovely resident of the island rescued me on my final afternoon.)
That being said, we have been enjoying the street-food opportunities afforded by the urban centre. I introduced my kids to the “pizza walk”, a tradition of my friends in Toronto. It consists, essentially, of walking, chatting, and eating whatever street foods strike your fancy. It is a great way to explore, and we discovered a community garden, as well as the urban beach at the bottom of the hill. Falafel and hotdogs were obtained. Photos were taken. If I can figure out how to get them off my phone, they will even be shared.
I am writing this down now, so that if I suggest that I’m going to go on any other grand road trips, I have evidence of at least this suggestion: I cannot move to a new location every day or two. My kids have also said several times, “I love this place. But when we come back, can we fly? Please??” To which I add, “And rent a house or an apartment for a whole week.” This fancy hotel is nice and all, but it is definitely not home-like. I will grant that the apartment at the university was actually superior for making me comfortable, on account of kitchen.
Tomorrow, one last day of stressful transitions, as we figure out how to stash and retrieve our luggage, get to the airport, survive an overnight flight, and still make the most of our final day in the city. Morning: checkout, Stanley Park bicycle rental for a quick ride, aquarium for the finale, followed by a red-eye to Montreal. There’s a five-hour break in the middle there, which I think we will simply offer to the airport gods. That’s how my San Diego trip ended, too, now that I think about it. Sometimes, I just need to move the transition along to avoid getting stressed about it. Or, more stressed. Anyway, I’m looking forward to getting home and finding some semblance of routine once more. Including writing. Lots and lots and lots of writing.
On the plus side, the four hours of repacking I’ve done today have been rendered much more a) urgent, and b) effective by the necessity of abandoning the rental car a day earlier than expected. I had vain hopes of being able to consolidate our carryings into something amenable to taking the bus. To that I say, “Ha!” In our initial configuration, we were physically incapable of lifting all our belongings at the same time, set aside completely all delusions of being able to board a city bus. So to the coach line we went, which (fortuitously, I suppose) has the same weight limit for checked bags as the airline that is to carry us homeward in two days. I say fortuitously (I suppose) because I had the “opportunity” to spend the hour before the bus departed trimming the excess 18 pounds from the largest bag, as well as discovering what my kids can carry. (Not as much as I might have hoped, but as much as can be reasonably expected.) ($100 instead of $40 for the end-to-end trip, but they kept the much-too-heavy luggage the whole time we were on the ferry and we didn’t have to think about it again until we were in Vancouver.)
Let me just say that this process has been rendered significantly simpler by the addition of a kitchen in which we can sort, eat, and clean up. It has also been a marvelous place to kick back and completely trash our previous several weeks of efficient packing. The clothes are spread around the entire floor, the toys and books are in “hmmm… how much do we REALLY want this” piles, and a donation box has been delivered. It included the hammer. (After working with the tent pads in this province, I stand by my decision to pack the hammer in the first place, but really, you can get that exact hammer on 70% off sale at Canadian Tire every six weeks or so.)
However, let me also say that you can’t save money by staying at the UBC residences if you have to take a cab from the downtown to get there, since it is a $30 fare each way… which difference would have put me in a suite at one of the fanciest hotels in the downtown core, even if Expedia didn’t have my back. I know because that’s what I’ve got for tomorrow night (certain decisions were made in the absence of sufficient data, or we would be there tonight as well.) My oldest child is intimidated. We’re more the “no amenities in the bush” kind of travelers, but it should make an interesting change. Pit toilets on Gabriola Island to upscale KOA to UBC residence to $Something Plaza. 30 stories. I anticipate dodgy looks when I walk in with backpacks and a hockey bag.
At least this place has showers, although it’s too late for my feet. But I did get the spruce gum off of them. 8)
I found myself singing “Oh bla di, oh bla da, life goes on, ya” the whole time I was repacking at the bus terminal. The best part about being a writer: either it’s success or it’s material. That’s what I always say. Also, it’s only money. Also, I sure hope somebody needs some good help for the fall season.* All dilettante-ing aside, I do actually know a lot about SOME things. Booking urban travel may not be one of them.
* Instructional design my specialty. Unless you need an expert in engineering education, which is my real specialty.
After six weeks on the road, I anticipated being tired of having to fetch water. As it happens, when my children were so pleased to discover flush toilets yesterday, I had just thought, “Yes! No boil water advisory! Let’s hear it for drinking water!” I left home with a high end water filter, but in the end I took advantage of our occasional forays into civilization to purchase a decent supply of backup water. That was 4 gallons, and it has lasted us for 4 weeks, through about 9 nights of boil water advisories. We supplemented with a 5 gallon jug which was filled at every opportunity, as well as 3 stainless steel bottles that are filled and emptied just about daily. Let us not forget the other day when I said to a couple I met at the dishwashing station, “I am just partaking in the miracle that is hot water I didn’t have to make.”
You would think that after this, it would be the running water I missed most. But you would be wrong.
You might also guess that it was the internet. It would be a reasonable guess, since I snapped in Chilliwack and upgraded my phone from the 8 year old dinosaur that I found at the bottom of one of my packing boxes… all the way to an Android that is now my magical hot-spot in the internet desert.
But to my astonishment, I find that what I have missed most is my cabinets. The ability to put something away and not have to stash it, remember where it is, pack it for best fit… but to be able to leave it where you intend to use it next, where it will not attract critters? What a luxury! Having lived outside for significant fractions of the last 6 weeks, I have a new appreciation for organization that doesn’t involve stacking. I also have a great love of rooms that have a specific function and don’t have to be converted to something else at the end of the evening.
I will say that I’m glad to have been mostly out of the technology loop for the last month. It was much easier to simply engage with the experience when I was not also trying to process and document. I have some notes, but mostly a slew of snapshots. I spent some time in Chilliwack applying tags to my photos as reminders, but for the most part, I have left the writing for the future. It may lack immediacy, but I hope that it will make up for that in depth. We are winding down the end of a grand scheme, and it would not do to jump out of it too soon.
Suffice it to say that I am amazed by the jumps in technology that allow me to choose suddenly to get a wireless connection in my tent. I don’t have running water, and I don’t have an electrical cord, but I can send the world this update… at least until the laptop runs out of juice. Got about an hour in total, so I’ll leave it at that, set up here in the tiny campground just off the ferry dock on Gabriola Island. (By the way, the Nanaimo end of that ferry run is out of service at the moment, so you have to go to Duke Point. If you were planning on going to Gabriola this week. Ask me how I know.)
Seriously? Mountains? I’ve GOT those!
Hoodoos in the Alberta Badlands:
Banff from the top of Tunnel Mountain:
And evidence that I was, in fact, with my children on this trip:
Only, it looks green-screened. I swear, this is a real picture. It’s even from this week.
Top of Sulphur Mountain, gotten to via the Banff gondola. Expensive, but we declared it officially worth the price of admission.
We also drove up Revelstoke, but there’s a series of photos to follow.
The place, not the band. That is to say, I have made it to Chilliwack, B.C. To reward myself, I have booked into a hotel that has a washer and dryer. I know, I know. Washers and dryers are everywhere. But this also has a bathtub, internet access, and beds I don’t have to make in the morning before going to the ferry. And by make, I mean, construct and/or fold up and down. This last couple of weeks has led me to a great love of having rooms in which I can place things without fearing that they will attract a bear to come and eat my children. Last night, I finally said, “I am so sick of bears!” To which my daughter rightly replied, “But we haven’t seen any bears, mummy.”
Frankly, if it were entirely to me to inventory the charismatic mega-fauna of the Rockies, my count would be: one elk. That’s all we saw in a week in the mountains. One elk. s’alright. It was a big one. And we’ve got pictures. Well, picture:
So, we got lost at one of the biggest tourist destinations in Canada, and therefore didn’t make it to see glaciers before the interpretation site closed. Hint: sometimes you should just follow the crowd. There will have to be beer to pry THAT story from me. Anyhoo… because we were late and missed out on the Roger’s Pass centre, which had been promised to my son, we decided to stay at the Illecillewaet campground for a night. (It had been recommended to me by a woman in the hot springs in Banff.) It was so beautiful that we stayed for two. Glacier National Park: Gorgeous, isolated, non-crowded. This campground also happens to be adjacent to the ruins of one of the original CP luxury hotels. Campfire stories, guided hikes, rushing waters… the stuff of which a summer in the mountains is made. Anticipate rave reviews of Parks Canada to come.
And now it is one in the morning, and I have to get the laundry done before check-out time so that we can get dressed before going to the ferry to get to the island on the other coast. See how I haven’t gotten much writing done this month? But wow! What a trip. I don’t know if I’ve got suggestions, but I’ve got stories.