For some reason I did not keep daily notes of what we did this week.
I do recall taking Donnis to an eye specialist one afternoon.
Apart from that the weekdays seem like a blur.
Saturday 14th July
While Donnis went to Christmas in July at the Star Casino with friend Glenda I played bowls in a triples event. As usual I am inconsistent but enjoyed the game.
After dinner I rugged up to brave the cold and drove to the wharf at Broadwater Parklands.
I am experimenting with night time exposure photography.
Although some of the results are satisfactory I realise that the initial press of the shutter button is enough to cause a little camera shake and creates the tiniest (sometimes not so tiny) out of sharp focus result.
I really need a remote shutter device. I had one but had not used it since…well since a few years ago. When I took it from my bag this week the rubber was perished and the device fell apart in my hands.
Sunday 15th July
Donnis is feeling the cold and it causes havoc with her sinuses making her sneeze almost constantly. After lunch we went to Mermaid Beach and sat on a blanket on the sand and watched the world go by just enjoying the warmth and the salty air. The water is clean and clear and an amazing 21.5 degrees.
After dinner I tried a few more time exposure night shots at Biggera Creek in our village park. Tonight really brought home to me why I need the remote shutter cable. Even a gentle touch on the shutter button, causes blurring.
The camera is mounted on a sturdy tripod so I did not expect the results.
Our good friends from Port MacQuarie, Tony and Dawn, arrived today. They are towing their caravan and have just started what will be their epic round Australia voyage of adventure, discovery and self suffiency. We had a wonderful lunch where Tony and Dawn tried to persuade us to buy a motorhome (again) and join them. While Donnis, on an emotional level, is ready to go, I on a logical level considered all the implications. I would love to continue our travels but several factors tell me NO!
We are staying home- unless of course we win the Lotto over the weekend.
Wednesday 4th July
Not much happening today but I am working on features on my Panasonic Lumix DMC FZ-200 camera. I have been inspired by the photographs on Facebook pages where I am a member. I belong to Australian Outback Photography, Australian Landscape Photography, Picture a Day and Amateur Photography Group. The last two groups are USA based. Digital cameras can take time lapse photos, particularly night time scenes. Tonight, when it was a bit cool I went to our own village park, on Biggera Creek, to experiment.
Using a tripod to reduce camera shake I took a simple night photo and several rapid fire photos as well as several rapid fire which the camera stitches together to form one composite photo. Finally I set the camera on Night Scene which takes an 8 second exposure. The difference in results is astounding.
Thursday 5th July
This afternoon we visited Coomababah Lakeland Conservation Area. This is an area of more than 1200 hectares of wetland, eucalypt forest, salt marsh and mangrove habitat. These are important coastal wetlands and migratory water bird habitat. The Conservation Area is home to 274 species of animals, with seven species listed as ‘vulnerable’ or ‘near threatened’, including the koala, powerful owl and grey-headed flying fox, along with 24 internationally protected migratory bird species. Of course there is a resident Kangaroo and Wallaby population and that is what we initially came to see.
This magical parcel of land is owned by Gold Coast City Council and is maintained by them although there are no facilities – no toilets, no water and no benches on which to sit and enjoy what is on offer. Mixed in with this natural conservation area is a private airfield, a waste water treatment plant, a bushland nursery, The Pound and an Op Shop. Strangely these do not detract from the conservation area as immediately you enter the trees none of those buildings can be seen. Small aircraft,
including helicopters take off and land all day and none of the birdlife or the Roos seem bothered by it.
We saw people, mostly Asian visitors, wandering amongst the Kangaroos.
I will add a note of caution here. These are wild animals, used to humans to be sure but still wild animals. They are not tamed in any way and are unpredictable. There are some big buck roos protecting their territory and Does. Getting too close may trigger aggression. These big bucks and I do mean BIG are fighters. They have some very sharp claws in their hands and even bigger claws on their toes which they use in fights. Clearly, many visitors do not read the warning signs.
Today was only a short exploratory walk and we did not see any Koalas but they live high in the trees and sleep most of the day.
We wondered why having lived here three years, in fact almost four years, we did not know this gem existed only about 2 Klms from our home. A fellow driver during the Commonwealth Games told me about the area. Speaking with other locals it was clear many did not know it existed either. However overseas visitors seem to know about it.
Friday 6th July
Today we took friends Marilyn and Barry for a walk through the park. We saw two big bucks having a fight in the middle of the mob.
This highlights why it ius not a good idea to approach too closely.
Unfortunately we started our walk a bit late believing we might reach Coombabah Lake and be able to take some sunset photos. We forgot the gates are closed at 6pm so abandoned the rest of the walk.
Saturday 7th July
While I played bowls after lunch Donnis rode the bicycle to Coomababah Lakeland Conservation Area and explored another of the many paths around the area.
We did not win the lotto tonight.
Sunday 8th July.
Can you believe we again went to Coombabah Lakeland today. This time we entered from the western entrance where the pound is located. Donnis loves dogs so we went to the pound. The dogs are well cared for and exercised regularly but their kennels are isolated from each other and are all concrete. It just seems a little stark and clinical but is also easy to clean. Dogs are a bit thoughtless with their bowel and urinary habits so the kennels need to be washed out each day.
Cats on the other hand do their business in litter bins. All nice and tidy and easy to clean. They also live in 5 star luxury hotel units with lots of toys and climbing posts and shelves high off the ground and nice carpets to lay around on. They also have time out garden villas shared with another feline also on holidays as well as private rooms for some time alone. Dogs bark and growl and jump around threateningly protecting what they think is theirs. Cats strut around their kingdom knowing their servants…humans…will protect their domain.
Overall we were impressed with the dedication shown by staff and care volunteers.
After dragging Donnis from the pound we went on the boardwalk through mangroves to a bird hide on Coombabah Lake. Today was not much good for birdlife and at low tide I expected to see lots of crabs. Today they were elsewhere.
WE then drove to the Eastern entrance and enjoyed the Kangaroo Trail again.
Tonight I drove behind the Gold Coast Art Gallery on the bank of the Nerang River to experiment with time exposure night scenes of Surfers Paradise.
I thought I had chosen the time well. There was no breeze, it is Sunday night so I did not expect any boats to stir up the water. I expected a perfect still water to reflect the lights as a mirror image. I forgot about the tide which sort of ruffled the mirror image a little. Nonetheless I am pleased with the result.
Our last day in Vancouver. I suppose you could call it a “lay day”.
Basically we didn’t do nuffin.
Well, we did go to Jericho Beach for Poppy the French Bulldog to run around.
After dinner Doug n Linda drove us to Vancouver Airport to begin the process of coming home. Getting booked on our flight was reasonably easy considering every domestic flight with Air Canada produced unwanted surprises.
Next comes getting through security. There seems to be no easy time for this process. Line up and wait. Remove belt, coins, glasses and mobile phone. Take the laptop out of its snug protective carry bag. Walk through the scanner then find what belongs to you and pack it away again. For the first time since arriving in Canada I have not been called aside for additional checks and questioning. After 15 minutes we are finally in the terminal and find a comfortable seat, near the flight gate and settle down for the 2 hour wait to be called.
The 15 hour flight home was just as I expected. Donnis slept most of the way and I watched 3 movies. While in the aircraft toilet, about 4 hours into the flight I heard a noise like somebody having a fit and heard a thump. I thought it was the adjoining toilet and intended to call the hostess. When I opened the door a woman was on the floor outside the door, passed out and attendants were umm err attending. Shortly the Captain announced there was a ”medical situation”. Was there a doctor or nurse on the flight? A nurse came from cattle class, just like us while a doctor came from up front, business class. After awhile, they revived the woman and took blood sugar samples and she was helped forward.
We arrived 7.30am and suddenly it was Wednesday morning. We skipped Tuesday. The food on the flight was OK but not something I would order in a restaurant. It was filling, timely and slightly warm – no chance anybody will scald themselves. Same goes for the tea and coffee. Only warm enough so that it can be drunk quickly without much taste. Flavour was something which must have been left on the ground. We were given some French Wine with dinner. I did not like it and thank goodness I had an aisle seat near the toilets. How can coffee be made to taste tasteless? Donnis claims she knows the secret to make it tasty. Dump two of the little Half and Half servings into the coffee. It now tastes even less like coffee but at least has some taste. (Half and Half is a UHT type milk/cream combination much favoured in Canada and the US. They are often called coffee creamers, it can also be purchased fresh in various sizes)
Home at last. Skytrain to Helensvale then bus to Harbour Town. The bus driver must have been trained in Vancouver! He could not wait for passengers to get to their seats before accelerating and passengers grab for anything to save being thrown along the bus. I walked home, drove the car to collect Donnis and the luggage where she was waiting at Harbour Town bus stop. An hour later I was in bed sleeping the sleep of the innocent. At least for two hours. I guess innocence left while I was sleeping.
Since arriving home we have been to the beach several times and walked on clean white sand in water still around 21° and able to breath the lovely salt laden humid air. My sinuses cleared within a day.
It was a wonderful holiday, visiting family, seeing the sights but it was time to come home. Now we can start looking at local adventures again.
Today we went downtown to watch the Annual Dragon Boat Races. Two hundred teams from all over the world competed. Held on the bay at an area called Creekside Park. Today was final day of competition and we were surprised to hear a call asking for competitors in race 90 to assemble. Race 90? Wow! Racing began at 8am and commenced every 11 minutes. Teams were organised into several staging area’s and would move from one to another until they reached the racing pontoon when a Dragon Boat was assigned to a team.
Crowds of people came to support their team or like us, just came out of curiosity and to be part of an event.
Not having any connection to these racers it was hard to garner enthusiasm for the races but it was great to be a part of the spectacle and given my previous history with International Outrigger Canoe Racing I know the amount of time and effort that goes into planning such an event.
I did manage to speak with one of the racers from an Australian team, the Maroochy Sea Serpents. He was very excited his team had won a medal.
In an event of this nature there were lots of food concessionaires, give- away promotional booths, and free entertainment.
Thousands attended and it seems that as the weather began to turn and the first raindrops began to fall they were all, just like us, more interested in getting home without getting rained on.
The location is picturesque within the bay of course but the Telus World of Science Building is located here and unfortunately we never got to visit.
Telus is one of the major telecommunications companies in Canada. The system they use for their products – like all the other Telco’s – ensures Canadian users are kept hostage to limited coverage, high prices and take it or leave it attitude. I have written about Telus in a prior post so will not expand any further here.
Across the bay is BC Place which is home to BC Lions American Football games, BC Whitecaps Football (Soccer) Club and is also used as an indoor/outdoor concert venue. The roof can be closed completely.
Nearby is Rogers Stadium, home of the Vancouver Canucks Ice Hockey Team and is also a concert venue. It is fully enclosed. The amazing story about this CAN $160 million building is that it was built between 3 very busy motorways, high-rise apartments and an elevated railway. Sceptics said a 53,500 seat stadium could not be built in the space available. They were wrong and the building was completed in 1989.
As we wind down to our final days and contemplate our flight to OZ at midnight tomorrow, we also take time to reflect and thank those who contributed to our amazing travels.
Fred and Peggy of White Rock who gave of their time and organised for us to stay at their unit, travel by bus on a guided tour of Vancouver and looked after us as family. At a time when I faced no ability to charge the camera battery (I left my charger in OZ) Fred stepped forward and organised a universal charger. As well they picked us up from Vancouver Airport while Doug was being checked for a heart condition at the hospital. Their generosity will always be remembered and appreciated.
Amtrak who through no fault of their own delivered us to Chicago 12 hours late and we missed our connection. At 2am they organised a taxi to and from the station and overnight accommodation at the Swiss Hotel, plus meal vouchers at the station. Of all the stations throughout the USA, Chicago was the best place to be delayed. We had access to their First Class Passenger lounge and all the facilities on offer. Those facilities included food and drink – including passable coffee, comfortable lounge chairs, tables and chairs WiFi, power outlets and TV. There are only 6 such lounges throughout their network.
The very helpful desk manager at Wyndham Hotel at Niagara Falls who cancelled one night of our stay when we arrived 24 hours late and organised and paid our bus fare to Toronto out of her own credit card. Yes we paid her in cash in US dollars.
Alecia and Tyler at Prince Edward Island, particularly Alecia on her 10 days off shift organised sightseeing, adventures and a wonderful east coast experience. The road trip for all of us to Nova Scotia and Cape Breton Island was a great time and Alecia can take a bow for her organisational skills. It is not such an easy task to research places to stay for 5 people with a reasonable tariff as well as find laces to eat with food suitable for varied diets and again at reasonable cost.
In Calgary, we stayed with Joan and often had use of her truck and visited Andrea and Brett who had barbecues at their house along with visits to Heritage Park and Calgary Zoo. Unfortunately Joan has to work so was unable to join us in all our activities.
Simone and Lazar who organised the use of Simones Audi and their sightseeing adventures at Golden and Kicking Horse Mountain. As well, the meals, accommodation, sightseeing adventures and generous hospitality by Maia and Ivan at their mountain retreat in the Rocky Mountains was a wonderful several days and we truly thank the four of them. They all made us feel part of their family.
In Vancouver Linda and Doug allowed us to stay at their house while we were getting ready for Amtrak and again when we arrived the second time. Despite their busy schedule they arranged for visits around Vancouver and a trip to Poulsbo in the USA. Our car trip with Linda and the children to a game park was lots of fun. I am sure Linda would not have enjoyed her day as much if she had to drive the game park. I was happy to drive through and around animals and obstacles.
Thank you to Jessica and John in Poulsbo for their hospitality as well, since they have an even busier schedule. Johns mother Ruth also chipped in with a visit to towns we would not otherwise have seen.
Along with all the thank you’s there were also times when things just did not happen as they should.
Amtrak gets a nod as having the worst train journey from Chicago to Buffalo. In fact the train continued on to New York city. I can only hope the track improved as it got closer to the Big Apple.The journey was mostly at night and was on a rough track and the train rocked, rattled and rolled and the trains horn blew at every level crossing. Our room was much smaller than on the Empire Builder from Seattle to Chicago. As such the beds were smaller and less comfortable as well as difficult to get into and out of. Sleep was near impossible even for Donnis. We were left exhausted. On arrival at Buffalo NY while waiting for a connecting train we slept on the bench in the Buffalo station. You have to be very tired to do that.
The less than helpful desk manager at Super 8 Motel at Mississauga (Toronto). Maybe there was a language barrier but his idea of good food differs greatly from ours. He indicated there were no nearby places within walking distance for dinner and unless we took a taxi we would be better off using the Chinese Dining Room next door. In fact the Chinese was closed and all that was available was a dried buffet offering at the garage. Later we discovered a Tim Hortons and a Subway were across the highway. Both would have provided a better meal within a 5 minute walk.
Air Canada gets a thumbs down for the domestic flights booking arrangements. Their advertised price is for getting on the plane. Getting a seat allocated is another cost and just when you think you have it all paid for they charge $27.50 per bag. As well, their on-line check in to include baggage costs will only accept credit cards issued by US or Canadian banks. That does not make sense as they accept other cards to pay for booking a flight and seat allocation.
The bank manager and staff at RBC Royal Bank Dunbar branch receives a big thumbs down, they have no idea about how credit and debit cards work in their ATM’s. Instead of getting help and information the manager chose to make up a story that our card would not work in their ATM. He needs a few lessons in service and understanding about the banking system.
Our trip through the USA and Canada was exciting, exilerating, fun, busy and tiring. We have enjoyed ourselves immensely but are ready for home.
Summer is having second thoughts about being in Washington State at this time of year. After discussions with winter they decided to share the day. The first half until midday belonged to Winter and the second half of the day is then shared between spring and summer.
Linda, Donnis, the children Jaxson and Emma and I went to Olympic Game Farm https://olygamefarm.com/ in Sequim (Skwim) a bit over an hour away along some very scenic countryside with occasional lakes and views of the ocean. It began to rain and got colder but somehow by the time we arrived it remained fine and even turned into a near nice day.
This place looks a bit run down and cheap and nasty but somehow it all seems to work. Basically the grazing animals are free to roam throughout most of the park and you can feed them slices of bread purchased at the gate. You drive around the park in your own car. There are signs reminding you to keep doors and sunroofs closed and to keep fingers inside.
You are also reminded not to stop at the bisons.
There is a reason for that as bison will stop in front of the car while another sidles up from the side or even the rear.
Their horns rub against the side view mirrors and their heads brush along the side of the car. Any fingers silly enough to be outside the window could get badly injured. Yeah, lots of signs to remind us the rules but it is not as if as if the bison can read. They know how to set up a roadblock and ambush you. We got mobbed by llama,
peacocks – yes peacocks –
and a bunch of other animals we are still trying to identify. The larger animals all managed to place their heads inside the open windows to the delight of Jaxson.
Emma felt terrified when one large elk licked her and slobbered over Linda’s arm as she yelled at me to go, go, go.
The park speed limit is 10MPH but the animals can easily maintain that speed and will happily walk beside the car with their head in the window.
Bears, which are also sort of grazers are in open grassed pens with the addition of a short wire fence and an electrified fence.
You can also throw bread to them but do not get out of the car.
The other animals classed as animals of prey are kept in small enclosures. Lions, tigers, more bears,
wolves, cougars, lynx and a bunch of others appear bored and pace around their small enclosures or simply sleep. Of the entire experience we really felt badly about these animals and their small enclosures with nothing to keep them occupied. Each enclosure is about half the size of an average house block. I would be bored walking around that all day. It was certainly a good rule you did not leave the car as technically the animals could escape but strangely the front gate was not a gate at all. An escaped animal could run straight through the open entrance.
In the afternoon we stopped at a wolf enclosure which also had a black bear pacing. Other wolf enclosures had groups of wolves nearby. The lone wolf climbed onto a high point and started a wolf howl. Soon the howl was taken up by the other wolves. This went on for some time then stopped suddenly.
This entire area was once owned by Walt Disney Studios and many adventure type movies were filmed here on sound stages and within animal enclosures. In a large barn are some of the sets of wilderness cabins used in various movies are still in place along with posters and other memorabilia.
A small petting area which included a few billie goats and a very fat pig had children chasing animals to pet them.
There was also a fresh water aquarium and a reptile room.
Over all it was an interesting experience but honestly it gave the impression of being run down, short of money and not enough staff and certainly not enough room for some of the animals and not enough activities to keep those animals busy.
The amazing low entry fee…in our case $13 each…entitled us to an all day pass. We drove back through the grazing area but by now the animals were laying around sleeping except for a few who still wanted bread.
Even the bears were no longer interested in the bread except to dunk a slice in water.
It was an interesting experience.
On our way home we stopped briefly at a small pretty town called Port Gamble. It seems to be a typical American town of the 1950’s era. Complete with the usual USA flags and white picket fences.
Friday 22nd June
Today we drove back to Vancouver. Donnis has been unwell since yesterday morning. In fact I seem to have similar symptoms but she is not well at all. We brought Silver and Jaxson with us. Somehow Jaxsons passport was left behind and we had Emmas passport instead. The Canadian Border officer asked a lot of questions and it looked like we were facing a long drive back to Poulsbo for the passport. He directed us into a side holding area and instructed us to leave the car unlocked and walk inside the border control offices and wait to be called. We wondered about what might be the outcome but were pleasantly surprised when they told us to continue our journey. Perhaps Jason, at age 4 does not need a passport.
Wednesday 20th June 2018.Somehow I missed writing and photographs from one half of this day.
Later in the day we drove with Ruth (Johns Mother) to Silverdale.
Once we arrived I realised we had been here in 2015 but today saw it from another perspective. That is, summer is here and Silverdale is classed as a beach. Beach??? Yes a pebble and shell and oyster and rock and oyster and seaweed and mussel and other dead crustaceans, beach.
All the lovely sharp and slippery stuff you really enjoy when you go to the beach. Tender teenage feet hobbled carefully into the water to at least knee deep before frigid water drove them, hobbling, ashore.
The real brave teenagers were at the end of a jetty where some unfortunates were pushed into the salty hypothermic h2o.
From here I chose, at random, a place on the map, for our next visit. Brownsville was not far away and was a real picturesque location based around a marina and lots of houses built on the hillsides overlooking Port Orchard Channel.
We were on a tight schedule expecting to have to be at Point No Point Lighthouse Park for a family BBQ dinner. We received a call to say the children had received shots today and were not well enough to go out. Instead a party for Jaxson was planned at home. That gave us a little extra exploring time.
I saw an interesting older boat that would be wonderful for exploring all the bays and coves and peninsulas and islands around Puget Sound. The entire area would be around the same size as the entire Whitsunday and Cumberland Islands group and just as spectacular in a different way. Yeah, dream on. Only around CAN$1,000,000 would get us something like that plus $1,000 to fill the fuel tanks or $1,000 a day rental.
Although I enjoyed wandering around this cute marina and sheltered bay, I also wanted to see as much as I can.
Next stop, chosen at random on the map is, Key Port. As it turns out we did not see much of the town as it is a US Navy Department and located right next door is US Naval Undersea Museum. AS we arrived at the Museum we could hear a siren, very loud and scary enough to make us think WWIII was happening. Eventually a voice announced situation OK and personell should return to their normal duties. It was only a drill. It worked for us! We had only a brief few minutes to explore the museum before they kicked us out at closing time.
As we were leaving the Museum we joined the queue of cars leaving the base. It was after 4pm and the military here are like the military in OZ. Time to finish fr the day and head home.
I enjoyed our time looking at just a few coastal locations.
So begins our last week away from home and we have finally found summer.
I got a bit agitated at a bank where we wanted to exchange Canadian dollars for US dollars. The teller was totally confused as to how to proceed so she called on her supervisor/manager to help out. He looked at our Canadian dollars Visa card and declared he could not help as it is not recognised by the Canadian Banking system. WTF! WTF! I told him we have used the same card all over Canada at ATM’s, shops, Banks, trains, airlines, WalMart and Costco without problems. He insisted that the card has a little symbol on the back and that tells him it cannot be used in an ATM – anywhere. I then asked if I went to an ATM and got cash would he organise US dollars for us. NO! We are not customers. The ATM is inside the banking chamber and in his view so I walked over, drew out cash using my card which according to him would not work. I waved the cash at him as I left. Linda is a customer of this bank so I gave her the cash and she got our US dollars. I have some strong words I would like to use about this bank branch and manager but this is a family blog.
Why did I need US dollars and where did I find summer? We drove to Poulsbo near Seattle in the USA to visit Linda’s daughter Jessica. It was summer weather when we arrived and everyone is struggling with the under 30° heat.
Going through US Customs at the border was painless. The officer asked me to take off my sunglasses and if I still lived in Australia and then we were on our way. Instead of driving in afternoon peak hour traffic to Seattle then catching the car ferry across the bay we turned off to Annacortes, then Coupeville and finally arriving at Fort Casey for the car ferry to Port Townsend . Along the way we passed the Whidbey Island Naval Air Base and the nearby town of Oak Harbour is a busy place servicing the base.
This is a really scenic drive and unfortunately we were on a tight timetable and unable to stop and take photos. Constant road works and even an accident caused delays. As it was, we arrived at the ferry terminal with only minutes to spare.
Not long after leaving the ferry we reach Highway 101. Turn right to Port Angeles and follow the Olympic Mountains or turn left to Puget Sound and Poulsbo. We turned left.
We arrived in Poulsbo in time to see John before he left for work. After dinner we sat around talking and getting to know the children, Silver, Jaxson and Emma.
Although I was not driving, I think I used my foot all the way on a phantom clutch and brake pedal. It’s hard to be a passenger sometimes.
I am tired.
Our bedroom has half- life size figures of a Star Wars Storm Trooper
and Darth Vader beside the bed.
I am not sure if I have to call on “The Force” before I go to bed. I like the Star Wars movies but John is a real fan. Tomorrow I will get to see the rest of his collection.
Tuesday 19th June
It is young Jaxsons 4th birthday.
He was able to celebrate with a playgroup at Battle Point Park.
After singing Happy Birthday and blowing out the candle on the cup cakes, I had a look around the park. It is called Battle Point, neither because of a Civil War battle nor any other US military battle. It was from a native American battle, around 1900, between the local Suquamish Tribe and a marauding tribe from Canada seeking women. History does not tell us about the outcome. It just records there was a battle. The area was once owned by the US Military and Fort Ward was created as a super secret radio installation. It was here that a decoded message about Japans plans to attack Pearl Harbour was handed up the line but sat on an officials desk over the weekend. History tells us the message was never acted upon. Or acted upon too late.
Some of the original buildings have been retained and put to new useful purposes. For example the radio transmitter building complex is now used for a planetarium and celestial telescope and has regular information and viewing sessions for the public.
Another building is now used as a gymnastics auditorium.
Along the road we saw several places selling fireworks. Not small shops but huge solid timber buildings with counters 40 mtrs long. Yes, they sell fireworks in the USA. Some of the stores also sold marijuana or cannabis. Imagine. Let’s have a fun weekend. Buy a load of weed and fireworks, smoke the weed and set off the fireworks.
In the afternoon Donnis and I took John’s Ford Mustang Convertible for a spin to Poulsbo.
The city, yes city of Poulsbo (despite only having a population of 9,200 persons at the last census) was originally inhabited by the Suquamish nation for somewhere around 5,000 years.
Poulsbo was more recently settled by Scandinavian settlers (Norwegians) around 1880.
Locals still claim a strong relationship with the Vikings. Many of the original buildings along the shores of Liberty Bay on Puget Sound have been maintained in a quaint representation of a Norwegian Village of a century ago.
Even the sign, “Velkommen til Poulsbo” is in a nice Norwegian twang.
Although we like the City of Poulsbo we liked driving the Mustang even more. We would have enjoyed following a coast road around Puget Sound for a few hours but regretably John wanted the car to go to work.
Wednesday 20th June
One of Jessica and Johns employees was badly injured in a car accident early yesterday morning. It seems he started through an intersection on the green light. An Audi travelling at 100MPH in a 40 MPH area drove through a red light and ploughed into his car, rolling it and trapping him half out the window and his car burst into flames. Meanwhile the other car also rolled and the 18 year old driver managed to crawl clear while the car owner was trapped as his Audi also burst into flames. We know from eye witnesses at the scene, Sheriff’s report and drivers of both cars he was screaming for help as he was incinerated. At the time of writing John has visited his employee who was airlifted to Seattle but was unable to speak as he is now in an induced coma and scheduled for several operations. Both drivers are still in a critical condition and we will not know the outcome for several days. We know that Gerard has been conscious once since arriving at the hospital but has been kept in an induced coma ever since. He is scheduled for several operations but miraculously was not burned.
Now for something different. Emboldened by yesterday’s excursion on bus and train we decided to leave Linda and Doug at home while we went exploring by bus. We hopped off the bus at Kitsilano Beach or as it is more affectionately known, Kits Beach.
We saw it at 1pm and thought it was crowded but 4 hours later it was more crowded. The amount of white skins leads me to be concerned how many redskins there will be tonight.
The number of logs does not really give any idea of the number of people who will sit on or beside those logs.
The sand is the colour of cement powder and there is no surf. Not even a ripple. As the tide goes out the sand is replaced by weed covered rocks, logs, pipelines, oysters and other shellfish.
Venturing further than ankle deep is putting your foot health at risk. The beach is for playing not swimming. Playing? There are about 20 beach volley ball courts all in use while people are practising between courts and on nearby grass. The basketball courts also get a workout .
We followed the coastal pathway past Vancouver Maritime Museum and Vancouver Science Museum. We had considered going to one or two of Vancouvers several museums. They all have an entry fee of around $26 on average. We compared that to all the FREE museums and Art Galleries in Brisbane and decided to pass on the museums.
We passed under the Burrard Street Bridge. The bridge has some interesting decorative sculptural work on the bridge superstructure above the roadway. One is a bust of Captain George Vancouver while the other is Sir Harry Burrard-Neale.
We continued walking past what I thought were a wonderful set of units built around a man- made lagoon and overlooking False Creek and the vast expanse of marina. Later Doug and Linda explained the units have a great outlook but are very expensive, in the CAN$2,000,000 range, are small inside and are a leasehold with a 99 year lease.
So? What’s the problem? (Apart from the price tag) There are only two of us and we do not need a vast unit and at age 70 is a 99 year lease going to bother us? No we are not thinking of buying. Just saying.
This tiny hole in the wall café has limited seating of about 12 tables, does not have a view and the only way to get a table is to put your name on a list outside, detailing how many in your party and then, wait. An earlier Fish and Chip place with a view over the marina had a 90 minute wait. Soon 4 people left the café but there was no party of 4 waiting. The waitress called us and another couple , pushed the tables apart and we had only waited 5 minutes. Not so the Chinese family of 6 who waited with patience until shortly before we finished and until the waitress was able to cobble a table for 6 together. One waitress, 4 kitchen staff and they were all busy, great food and great service. Well worth the effort of finding the café.
We walked to the food hall, bought yoghurt ice cream and began the walk back to Kits Beach to catch a bus back to the house.
In all we walked around 6 Klms today.
We arrived just on 6pm in time for dinner.
So ends our seventh week away from home.
Only another week before we fly home to the GC in OZ.
Tomorrow we drive to Seattle, USA via a scenic route and after that will be a mystery. Linda has some plans.
Lots of photos. lots of information covering Monday to Saturday.
Monday 11th June 2018
While Linda and Doug had dental appointments, Donnis and I took Poppy the French Bulldog for a walk along the seafront at Jericho Beach. The beach has the snow capped mountains as a backdrop in one direction and downtown Vancouver in another. Across Burrard Inlet, which is littered with container and cargo ships waiting on being loaded, is Point Atkinson Lighthouse in north Vancouver.
The beach area here is also littered with logs which are continually being found floating in the bay. Those logs are dragged ashore onto the beaches and used as convenient backrests, seats and tables by locals having a day at the beach on the gray sands. All along the coastline are piles of logs which have been washed ashore over the years.
An interesting fact about what is known as Vancouver Harbour and the shipping lanes leading into it. From Burrard Inlet to the USA Border roughly 25 Klms by road is over 365 Klms of coastline. Like most coastlines it weaves in and out, twists and turns and creates little bays, headlands and inlets.
Dental appointments completed, Doug and Linda joined us for fish and chips at Spanish Banks East Concession.
It is described by Google Maps as a snack bar. This is a little shop which sells fish and chips and hamburgers, ice creams, sandwiches and amazingly, real espresso coffee. The young lady who served us took the orders, made the coffee, fish and chips and burgers, serving other customers and single handed running the impressive little shop.
Tuesday 12th June
Today we dropped Linda at a doctors appointment in downtown Vancouver while we walked to the waterfront. The day was overcast, threatening rain and rather chilly. After Linda joined us we walked to Granville Island Markets.
Regular readers will recall that I am not a fan of markets and that we also visited these same markets when we first arrived in Vancouver at the beginning of May. The markets are huge with the advantage of an enclosed foodie hall with lots of seating outside on the banks of False Creek which has some wonderful views of three bridges and the little water taxi’s taking passengers to various locations in the city.
Also from here we can see the dozens of float planes taking off and landing. The bridges are, Burrard St Bridge, Granville St Bridge and Cambie St Bridge. False Creek also has a large marina and the creek itself drains into Vancouver Harbour.
For me the saving grace is the food outlets which are always crowded. I just love the sights, the smells, the sounds and the crowds – even on a Tuesday.
We all wanted something different to eat so went our separate ways agreeing to meet on the dock outside. The hand -made chocolate outlets are always busy. Luckily I did not feel like chocolate today. The walk back to the car was pleasant although cool with a few drops of rain.
Wednesday 13th June
Last night as we snuggled beneath the blankets we could hear the rain beginning to drum against the roof and windows. This morning I woke to a weak daylight and heard the constant drum of the rain.
Oh well, this is, after all, Vancouver, which reportedly has the best climate in Canada but also has the most rain.
In the afternoon Donnis and I took a walk, mostly just to clear the cobwebs out of our brains and also to avoid cabin fever. The weather seems to be deteriorating.
Thursday 14th June.
Another wet day and therefore we did not do any exploring. Earlier this week we discussed flying to Mexico for a week. It seemed like a good idea except that Hurricane Bud, a category 4 system was threatening the Mexican west coast and Californian south coast. Even if the hurricane moves back to sea and does not cross the coast it will dump lots of rain and quite frankly we have had enough of the rain. No sense in flying to Mexico and possibly spending 7 days in unpleasant conditions.
Friday 15th June
For some crazy reason I was wide awake at 5.30am. Looking out the window from our room high on the westside hill I could see a cruise ship slowly moving up the Burrard Channel. It is the Royal Caribbean owned Radience of the Seas. It will pass under the Lions Gate Bridge into Vancouver Harbour and dock at Canada Place to discharge passengers. By midday it will start taking on passengers before heading off at 4pm on a 7 day cruise to Seward, (known as Port of Anchorage) Alaska in the evening.
It is overcast and quite chilly at 12°. Some rain fell overnight. The rest of the day may be another lay day waiting for better weather.
Saturday 16th June.
The good weather arrived and we are in shorts and Tshirts today
Along with Linda and Doug we caught a bus into downtown Vancouver then caught the SkyTrain to New Westminster on the right bank of the Fraser River.
New Westminster was settled in 1858 and was considered the capital of the new Province, British Columbia. The original reason for the settlement was Gold. Like gold rush locations around the world the gold finally gave out. The plan by Major-General Richard Moody was to establish “a city of beauty in the wilderness”. By 1860 the population of nearby Vancouver exceeded that of New Westminster. As well, Vancouver was a more accessible coastal port and not subject to the vagaries of a river system which had raging snowmelt in summer and barely a trickle in winter as well as legions of mudflats, sandbars and floating logs. By 1866 the mainland and nearby islands were brought together as a united Province, British Columbia with even better harbour facilities at Victoria the capital of Vancouver Island. Despite lots of arguments by both New Westminster and Vancouver residents, Victoria became the capital of British Columbia.
Today watching the swift flowing Fraser River we saw dozens of floating logs and other debris and can understand the difficulties of boating in this tidal, mudflat, sandbar and obstacle studded river.
We walked around the waterside to look at various market stalls and food out lets.
We decided to have an early dinner at The Old Spaghetti Factory http://www.oldspaghettifactory.ca/#menu one of a dozen in a chain stretching through several Provinces in Canada. Generally they advertise that all meals are complete. That is, an entrée or a soup, sourdough bread, main course, ice cream and a cup of tea is included in the price. I chose Seafood Fettucine Alfredo which included scallops and prawns. To accompany the main I had a sourdough roll, minestrone soup, Spumoni ice cream and a cup of tea. Cost? $16.95. Great meal, great service great atmosphere but gee it was noisy. We sat in what was once an old trolley car in NW.
Afterwards it was SkyTrain and bus home and very tired.
This post is back to the usual format of a full week but next week may be daily posts. It depends on what adventures come our way.
This is still a long post with lots of photos.
Monday 4th June 2018
So begins a new week here in Calgary. Donnis will be spending most of her days with her mum in the nursing home.
I am struggling with the tail end of the head cold and because of the dry climate when I blow my nose there is some blood. Yuk. Yes I know. Perhaps I did not need to tell you that. Just be aware that a dry climate can be disruptive to your sinuses. Joan has a humidifier which we need to put into our bedroom. Fingers crossed it helps me. I had no problems in Vancouver or PEI as they both have some humidity closer to what I am used to. Each morning when I wake, my tongue is stuck to the roof of my mouth. Donnis also has the same problem.
Any light exertion here in Calgary does not bother me as we are 1,045 m above sea level. However in the mountains around Golden and Kicking Horse the average height above sea level is 1,627 metres. Normal walking was OK but once there was an incline my breathing became laboured.
It is the beginning of summer but the nights and early mornings are cool to cold. When the sun does appear there is little warmth until almost midday.
Road workers carrying out maintenance as well as new projects are in full swing and there are barriers and Stop Slow people everywhere. Alberta is the corporate centre of the sand oil extraction industry. Alberta Province and particularly Calgary is in a financially healthy condition. There is an abundance of money. New buildings, new roads, new housing projects are very evident. All this work going on does contribute to traffic problems. That said, there is a bust side to the boom. Many sand oil jobs have been cut in recent months. The cost of a barrel of oil is around $60 at present. At one stage in 2016 it was as low as $26 a barrel. The loss of about 20,000 jobs in the last 12 months has meant the bottom has fallen out of the real estate market. Houses are sitting, For Sale for 12 months with no buyers. Part of the problem has been the boom when houses in new estates were being offered at the same or lesser price than an established house. (Hmmm. Sounds like the Airlie Beach real estate market)
The Province of Alberta is rich in a natural resource – sand oil. At present the oil is exported to other Provinces and more particularly to the USA. That oil is sent to market in BC and the port of Vancouver by miles and miles of railway tankers. Alberta wants to build a CAN$7.4 billion pipeline through the Province of British Columbia to Vancouver. The pipeline would deliver many benefits to BC including reduced fuel costs. Today a litre of unleaded in Alberta is on average $1.20.3. In BC that same litre of fuel is $1.57.7 on average. So BC residents are paying roughly an additional 30 cents per litre for fuel. The BC Government has voted NO to the pipeline but demanded the oil be landed in Vancouver for the same price as Alberta despite having to be shipped hundreds of Klms by rail. Not surprisingly, there is a heated two Province disagreement which does not appear will be resolved easily. Jobs and economic benefit versus environmental concerns is no different here than it is in Australia where the argument is about coal extraction and shipping. Two sides with equally good arguments with no winners.
Today I accompanied Joan on a shopping excursion to Costco. That was an experience, sort of like watching Walmart people videos. Costco people are different. It seems going to Costco is a family event. Mum, Dad and three kids, at least one in a pram. Family groups are everywhere. After shopping they all gather at the food court area where you can have lots of food for only a few dollars (plus tax). Most of the food is high carbs, high cheese content, deep fried and highly processed. Hot dogs, giant size, sell for $1.50 while a large coffee is $1.99. Coffee comes in one size – large. A slice of pizza, as large as a regular pizza is $1.99. Mostly, it seems, the people eating here are overweight.
In the food department everything is in wholesale lots. If you want a can of mushroom soup you need to buy a carton of 12. Want cereal? It is only available in a box of a minimum of two bags. A kilo of minced meat, you have to buy a package which contains 2 x 1 kg bags.
A single person or a couple would probably spend more than they save.
However there are some items which are well priced. A pre- packaged Caesar salad at least three times larger than you can buy at Woollies or Coles in Australia for $5 at Costco is $8.99. (later when we opened the salad I changed my opinion. The Costco salad was terrible. There were no bacon pieces and the lettuce leaves were all stems.)
Shopping at Costco, especially the one we visited at Heritage Gate, which is the busiest store in Canada, is organised chaos. Staff, and there is lots of staff, are friendly and helpful. They are constantly picking up things like clothing which customers just drop on the floor. For those who do not shop at Costco be aware you need to be a member with a photo id card to gain entry. Guests must be accompanied by the member and guests cannot buy under their own name.
Tuesday 5th June
Another lay day for me, while it was a look after mum day for Donnis. After dinner we drove to the airport to meet Alecia who has flown in from the oil fields for a few days.
Wednesday 6th June
Tonight I fired up the BBQ and we invited Simone and Lazar for dinner. Joan had bought some Short Loin Lamb Chops from…Costco…imported from Australia (lamb is an expensive luxury in Canada). Alecia made a rub of butter and Rosemary. I cooked some huge sweet potatoes on the BBQ until the skin blackened and juices began to seep out and veggie kebabs on the BBQ and set them aside while I quickly seared the chops in the flames created by the melting butter. I reduced the heat and slowly cooked the chops until juices began to flow. I let them rest until the table was set. All were impressed at how the meat was pink, juicy and tender and the sweet potato just slipped out of the blackened skin. Better than throwing a shrimp on the barbie any day.
The church and grounds are very well maintained, almost picture perfect. Compared to most other churches it really stands out as an example of wealth.
Afterwards we joined Simone, Andrea, baby Evan and young Miles for a day at Calgary Zoo.
Initially I was somewhat disappointed in what I thought was a small number of animals. The enclosures are large and roomy and many are set up to take into account the climactic conditions the animals would encounter.
Photography was often difficult as viewing chambers were partitioned with glass which is often scratched, smudged, dirty and reflects other images.
The zoo is divided in various themes such as Canadian, African, Asia, South America and even Dinosaurs. The Canadian section includes both Grizzly
and Black bears,
Moose, Bison, Mountain Sheep
and goats of various species and even a Rocky Mountain Cougar.
Some animals, such as the Lemurs have a large almost interactive enclosure.
Entry is gained via a heavily gated enclosure and a bridge. An area is loosely roped off but the Lemurs are free to walk amongst visitors although crouching down to their head height or trying to pat them is actively discouraged. Wisely the Lemurs keep their distance from humans.
About 5 years ago I visited the Western Plains Zoo at Dubbo NSW and one of the animals which fascinated me was the Hippopotamus.
There they had a large enclosure including areas of a couple of hectares to waddle around and a huge waterhole to do what Hippos do best. I was able to photograph a Hippo with its mouth wide open. Here the Hippos seemed to want to sleep a little and swim a little. Their water hole was not all that large but was enclosed on one side by a glass wall. I guess the idea is to see the Hippo underwater although in this case the glass was covered with algae on the inside. Hippos defecate in the water and their little tail acts like a propeller to break up the solid matter in the water. The water here is murky, I guess there is a lot of fecal matter in suspension.
The butterfly atrium was a sort of habitat for butterflies as well as a display of mostly tropical plants. The high glass domed green house had misters set in the roof as well as around the walls. It certainly gave the display a real humid tropical feel.
These plants are at least a metre in diameter and the spikey side walls remind me of the spikes on pitcher plants.
Although the butterflies live in a protected environment they still have mishaps and still only have a limited life span. Often their fragile wings are damaged yet they still fly around with grace.
The Panda enclosure was large, roofed and noisy with hundreds of kids squealing at the sleeping Pandas. Honestly that is all they did…sleep. Even 4 year old Miles wanted to leave the Panda enclosure because of the noise of other children.
Late in the day we went into the Gorilla complex although the large male Silverback died two years ago. A young male has now been placed in the enclosure
and I was fortunate to see a mother with a baby clutched in her arms as she lay in a den like shelter under a large fallen tree.
Nearby was the African Mandrill the largest monkey species and considered Old World Monkeys. Their large sharp teeth look threatening although, apparently showing the teeth is a welcoming gesture. I am not willing to give that theory a try. Mandrills look both threatening and majestic at the same time.
Saturday 9th June
A final BBQ hosted by Andrea and Brett at their home in, coincidentally, Queensland Street.
Sunday 10th June
We flew from Calgary on a wet and cold, miserable, grey day, to sunny Vancouver. The original plan was Doug and Linda would pick us up from the airport and drive to the marina where we would meet Fred and Peggy and take a cruise up the Fraser River in Fred’s recently re-furbished motor cruiser. Imagine our surprise when we were met by Fred standing inside the airport. It seems Linda had rushed Doug to the hospital with Atrial Fibrillation. Peggy was waiting a few blocks away with the car. Fred and Peggy had driven all the way from White Rock, almost 50 Klms away. An hour later we were further surprised when Doug and Linda walked in the front door. Doug had had his tests, was feeling fine and would have the results in a few days.
Even after only a few hours my sinuses are already responding to the higher humidity, sea level and even some sea spray. My breathing is much better.