Back in the U.S.S.A.

After the fireworks we took a day off in our last B&B. This one was clean, tastefully decorated, located in a very scenic spot, but lacked breakfast. The hostess told us that there had been complaints, and the kitchen was upstairs, and so on, but the fact remains, it ain’t a B&B, it’s a B.


Why are you staying indoors, when …..


the view from the verandah, with chairs, is so nice? That’s Vancouver across the way.

The next day we headed south again to catch the ferry back to Anacortes. It was a beautiful day, marred only by the long wait to pass US immigration on the dock. At least they didn’t ask for our Social Security numbers and voting records. That’s months away.


The Elwha arrives.


Farewell to Canada.


Lots of water and sky.

When we got to Anacortes it was time to put the foot down and get to Vancouver WA, just north of Portland, for the night. Then it was on to Ashland OR for one night and tickets to The Merry Wives of Windsor.

Trendspotting. Avid readers will recall our trip to the Globe Theater in London and Twelfth Night (link). It looks as if a trend is emerging – turning Shakespeare comedies into singspiel. This production of Merry Wives contained musical numbers drawn from the pop world plus cross dressing, and large portions of ham. The crowning ‘achievement’ was casting a small woman as Falstaff. The key here is “small”, not “woman.” It just doesn’t cut it when Falstaff is not, as the line goes, “two yards about” (72 inch waistline). She was bulked up, and had good (i.e. bad) hair and beard, and she played him as Bobcat Goldthwaite might have done, but just didn’t have the height or width needed to dominate. Oh well. Worth trying.

Much of the pop music meant nothing to us, although the younger audience members caught the references. All of us got the big first half close, with Mistresses Ford and Page singing Blondie’s “One Way or Another” as they planned revenge on Falstaff:

One way or another I’m gonna find ya
I’m gonna getcha getcha getcha getcha … etc.

That was definitely a hit. So, watch for this kind of treatment in the next Shakespeare comedy you attend.


Slender being a perfect fool with Ann Page. Costumes were excellent.


Professional singers. The regular cast members were good too.

On Wednesday morning we headed south to visit Quincy and Sarah in Brisbane (SF Peninsula). Our last photo taken in anger was of Mount Shasta.


There’s a little bit of smoke/fumes on the north side, visible in binoculars. Beware, northerners.

We had a very nice visit to Quincy and Sarah’s new house, a bay cruise in their sailboat (the Mostly Harmless), and an ‘interesting’ dinner on our last night. Sarah and I ordered lamb kebabs: she got lamb and I got free-range mutton. Tasty but tough: un-swallowable.

On Friday, July 7th, we drove down the 101 and arrived home at last. Aside from a bit of mold in the bathrooms and the odd cobweb, everything was just as we left it. The automated drip irrigation system did not explode while we were gone. Our neighbors the Bakers gave us all the mail and we settled in to read, do laundry, and check out the starter battery on the Prius (late word – it’s dead; new parts ordered). We look forward to several days of inactivity.


Canada Day–an epic by Homer



July 1, 2017. 150th Birthday of Canada. We rose early on Canada Day, but not as early as the IBBI (Int’l Brotherhood of Balloon Inflators). This arch was over the elevator lobby at our hotel.

We loaded up on breakfast because we knew we would be on the road under time pressure. We had a B&B in Nanaimo on Vancouver Island. The normal way to go is down to Vancouver (90 minutes), catch the ferry to Nanaimo (105 minutes) and 10 km to the B&B. The only trouble was we had not done this far enough in advance, and all the Vancouver ferries were sold out. Ferries up the coast took many hours to reach and required intermediate ferries as well. In the end, the only solution was to go south across the border to Anacortes, (3.5 hours + border delay + 1 hour early arrival at the pier) catch the ferry to Victoria (2 hours), and drive to Nanaimo (2 hours).


We saw one of the floats for the parade. The design reminded us of Animal House (“Cut the Cake!”) but the colours were way too cheerful.

We had a pleasant drive down to Vancouver, scenic all the way and no traffic. Everybody was going uphill to Whistler. The border crossing stopped us for 45 minutes but left us with enough time to buy some Bug Remover for the front of the car. When we finally got to Anacortes we had lots of time in the waiting line to scrub the front end and wax it up again.


From the ferry dock, we think that’s Mt. Rainier in the distance.


It’s a great trip through the San Juan Islands to Victoria. This is where you want to live if you own a boat.

After the two hour drive up the island we reached our B&B and almost immediately turned around to go to downtown Nanaimo for dinner and, we hoped, fireworks. Parking was less of a problem than we feared and we even found a table in a restaurant on the waterfront.


Alice had a local Dungeness crab and she finished the whole thing. Very impressive.


Around 9:30 people began gathering on the docks as well as ashore. This is the view from our restaurant – it told us we were in the right spot. Being so far north, the show did not begin until 10:30.


The little blue light was from one of three harbor patrol boats who lit their emergency lights and surrounded the fireworks barge to keep tourists out of the danger zone.


Good show.


And so ended Canada Day.


Another scenic drive, this time from Revelstoke to Whistler.


Glorioski, a picnic pullout! This was built by BC Hydro near one of their dams. We shared it with a busload of German tourists.


The snow-capped peaks never stop. This a view across Duffey Lake. The driftwood seems to be part of a real logjam from long-ago felled trees.


We blew the budget on the Fairmont-Chateau Whistler. Our view from the 10th floor was nice in that you can’t see the ‘village’ (read ‘shopping mall’). Although it’s the end of June, there was still snow at the top of the lifts and we saw skiers back from the snow, walking down Main Street in ski boots.


While others played real golf, Alice and I played mini-golf behind the hotel.


Janet and John were here for a wedding of a school friend’s son, and we went with them to the Squamish/Lilyat Cultural Center. The most interesting displays were the canoes. Some were traditionally made from whole cedar logs but trees large enough for a rough-weather canoe (the biggest) are almost gone. This one was cedar, but constructed from planks.


Each seat had a face. I’m not sure how comfortable this is.


Then we went off to a Mongolian BBQ dinner and posed for pictures. Whistler village resembles Vail in a lot of ways, but is less kitschy. Still, unless you’re a shopper, you’re better off playing mini-golf. Or hiking.

Canada Day tomorrow!

Little Victories

Today’s assignment was to get halfway to Whistler (which was over 600 miles and we aren’t doing that again). As we cruised by Calgary we saw both an incredible number of cookie-cutter developments that made South San Francisco look like an architectural design contest, and the first hint of the Rocky Mountains.

We made a slight detour for fuel (once again the GPS could not find a Shell station, sending us to places where there has never been a gas station) and found ourselves on highway 1-A, running parallel to the Trans-Canada #1. It was very nice – rural, lots of river views, and the mountains coming slowly into view. We remembered Alice’s mother, having received our slides from our Alaska trip, asking us to stop taking pictures of mountains. Good advice, but one has to take a few.


Approaching from the west on the Trans-Canada Highway. Although it did not rain much, clouds were with us until we crossed the divide, and even a bit after that.


From one of the few scenic overlooks.


Lake Louise.


Alice and the renovated Chateau Lake Louise. Lots of Clark’s Nutcrackers. We stopped for lunch here. The public parking was full and the shuttle started several miles down the road, so we took a chance on hotel parking. Our lunch was very good but plebian. Alice had a Lamburger, and I had a house special Hamburger. The portions were large and we left most of the buns behind. With a glass of prosecco and a glass of fruit juice the bill came to $60, but we got Free Parking!!!!! Life’s little victories are precious.

We had a pleasant day with great scenery that you really have to experience personally. Now we’re halfway to Whistler, in Revelstoke, and once again half the motel customers are bikers. But nice bikers. They’re Canadian.

PS: almost forgot. As we walked in the village center, we passed a massage/spa/pachinko parlor with this advert:


I’d like Sarah’s opinion on Body Sugaring. Is it done like waxing, pouring a hot sugar solution on to sensitive parts of your body? Or is it like maple sugaring, where you stick a pipe in the tree and let the sap (sugar) drip out? Or do you ingest so much sugar that unwanted body hair simply falls off?

Revelstoke may be a more interesting town than we supposed.

The Dinosaurs of Drumheller

We were proceeding happily along the flatlands of Alberta when we came to a big gash in the ground.


It was the Red Deer River Valley, home of the Royal Tyrell Museum of Paleontology. Those eroded riverbanks are full of fossils.


So I posed with a plastic dinosaur. You would have done the same.

The Tyrell museum is like the Page museum on steroids. It’s huge and everything is covered in mounds of detail. After two hours we were victims of information overload.


The entry hall is a diorama  of a bunch of Albertosauruses, the first specimen having been discovered by Mr. Tyrell as he searched for coal. They are a bit smaller than a T. rex, but not much.


This is an ammonite. I’m sure you recall the biblical battle between Joshua and the Ammonites. Smiting a large one (this one is two feet across) must have been painful. Strangely it is not mentioned in the museum, which insists that the Ammonites lived hundreds of millions of years ago but were extinct by the end of the Cretaceous, like the dinosaurs.

Stores sell “ammolite” which is the fossilized inner shell. The minerals that convert the shell to a fossil create the colors. A docent postulated that the original lining would have looked like an abalone.


This was my favorite display. It’s a complete skeleton of an Albertosaurus in the position in which it was found. Obviously the ‘rock’ it’s in is not original, and the head is a copy of the original (below, right) because the real head was too heavy to mount like this.


For scale, Alice and the Real Head.


This is the front half of an armored dinosaur. The whole thing would have been about 20 feet long. A conservator worked on this for over four years to get the non-fossil stone removed.


Of course they could not call themselves a real museum without a complete T. rex. It was found in the states, which one I forget. Half of the local finds were duck-billed dinosaurs. The T. rex had a relatively short existence, about the last million years out of the 150 million for all dinosaurs.


This is the fossil bed exposed by the Red Deer River. There are three named formations, all deposited between 74.5 and 77 million years ago. The K-T extinction occurred about 65.5 million years ago. They are still finding fossils there. The museum is just out of sight at the bottom left.

After the museum we ventured into Drumheller and chose O’Shea’s Eatery and Pub. Alice ordered a whiskey sour and the waitress returned with some green liquid and ice, and a salted rim. The ‘salt’ turned out to be sugar, which didn’t help. It turned out that (1) the bartender didn’t show up, so (2) the waitress looked up Whiskey Sour and came up with this. It was her first attempt at a cocktail. The green came from Rose’s Lime Juice, we think (it was a bulk dispenser). Anyway, Alice couldn’t drink it and settled for a non-alcoholic Budweiser, the only time ever that will ever be a good choice. The food was fine – lasagna and a half rack of Root-Beer BBQ ribs.

An Irish pub with no bartender. Joshua would not have stood for it.

Owl’s Well in Moose Jaw

We had a delightful 400 mile drive today in perfect weather. The countryside in Manitoba is like Kansas – mostly flat. There are a few hills, but it’s mostly a pancake. It’s pretty and green, but Yosemite it is not.


Breaking up the monotony were many roadside ponds. For a long stretch there were also ditches with rushes growing in them and lots of Red-winged Blackbirds.


But mostly it was like this. When we arrived in Moose Jaw we found the clock had changed again – to Mountain Time, believe it or not.

I had received an email from sister Janet, telling me that there was a Burrowing Owl Interpretive Center so we started there.


The Admin building is on the left, a gazebo in the middle, and the open-air cages on the right. The Center is well done, and emphasizes healthy prairie habitat partnerships with the farmers and ranchers. Burrowing Owls are good at killing mice and grasshoppers, but not so good with poisoned mice and grasshoppers. I guess this is a story most Auduboners are familiar with. Continued good luck to the Center promoting these partnerships.


Most of the owls are injured and unable to be wild (this one, for instance), and they are fed remotely so as not to habituate to the keepers. A couple are habituated on purpose to use for Show and Tell trips out to schools.

We then wound our way through Moose Jaw to the Wakamow Heights B&B.


This house began as the home of Wellington White who made a fortune making the bricks with which to build Moose Jaw. (He also had a home in Long Beach, CA, and his children ended up living there. Stuart? Any relation?) The current owners are the second to make it a B&B and it is a work in some progress. Our room is great – the Penthouse Suite. It’s a moderately warm day and the breeze is keeping us cool.


After last night’s dinner semi-failure, I perused Tripadvisor with a sharp eye and discovered that most places in Moose Jaw are either ‘family’ or ‘bar’ or all you can eat Chinese buffets. Not promising. After having had lunch at a Dairy Queen we figured our calorie quota was almost full anyway, so we are eating cheese and crackers and apricots tonight.

(Photo credit to Alice for the flat country pictures taken at 120 kph)


Today was mostly a rainy day. Good day for non-stop driving. Around lunchtime the sun did come out and we looked for a pulloff at a scenic spot. We struck out. For the last 2000 km I think we have counted 7 signed scenic stops. Yesterday our stop was an impromptu turn across traffic to an unmarked stretch of gravel. Today no such luck. We passed many lakes but never a place to stop beside one. USA-1, Canada-0.

Our GPS is also acting up. It gives you the time of arrival and includes traffic delays. Yesterday those predicted delays ranged from 30 minutes to five hours, but they never materialized. Today the range was up to an hour, but again no problems. Something about Canadian traffic sensors is crashing its programming. USA-1, Canada-1, GPS-0.

Because today was so wet, the only photos are from dinner at Maxime’s in Winnipeg. This is a family restaurant and serves chain-cuisine. In other words, if you know what you want (steak, fish, pizza, whatever) find a chain restaurant that specializes. Maxime tries to do everything, and is just OK.


Cute building, and the parking lot was full. The blue-hair crowd was out in force.


Helpful waiter.


Sunday special – roast beef. It was actually pretty good.


Alice ordered fish again, but en brochette. Don’t do this. You always get shorted on the headline ingredient with a brochette. I have marked the four bites of miso-honey pickerel with an “X”. There was more green pepper than fish.

Dessert was a Winnipeg specialty, the waiter said. It was angel food cake infused with lots of pecan bits that turned it brown, layered and frosted with whipped cream. It was very good and might be worth trying at home.

Tomorrow it’s off to Moose (Møøse?) Jaw, a place I have wanted to visit ever since I heard the name. Our route also takes us, two days from now, through Medicine Hat. As far as I know, the town names are the only unusual thing about them, but they have been on my bucket list for 60 years.