Archive | September, 2011

Blast from the Past

23 Sep

Here we sit on Vancouver Island, doing our final visits with family and friends and gathering up the last little bits of things for our trip back to the Baja. Van Insurance needs to be purchased so we can legally drive in the US and cross back into Canada next spring, as well as Driver Insurance so we can legally drive in Mexico since our Canadian insurance is invalid there. Yeah, I know, don’t ask me to explain!

There are foodstuffs to be purchased as well, since a lot of the things I like to cook require ingredients that I have been unable to find in Baja. I’ve also been gathering up toilet paper and stashing it anywhere I can find room for it. I can hear you now, “Toilet Paper? What, you can’t get toilet paper in Mexico?” Well, sure we can, but have you ever used Mexican toilet paper? If you have, then you’ll  understand.

We left Penticton last week, where the temperature was still hovering around 30 C, or for those still caught in the Imperial time warp, around 90 F. The day we left, the clouds started to gather and by the time we got to the island it was 15 C (60F). It’s very odd for the seasons to change due to geography but anyone who has ever spent large amounts of time here understands the influence ocean waters have on a land mass when the furthest you can get from it is less than 30 miles. Since the Island is, at it’s largest, only 62 miles wide, most of the time the beachfront is only a few miles away. As well, the waters here are cold and thanks to that influence, the daytime air temperature, even at the height of Summer rarely gets above 25 C, (80 F).  IT IS NOT THE HEIGHT OF SUMMER RIGHT NOW! That’s not to say that it’s cold or anything but a really nice day here right now is lucky if it’s pushing 20 C, (70 F) and that’s only if there’s no clouds or wind, and around here that doesn’t happen often. I won’t even go into night time temps. And now the rain has set in.

OH MY GOD! The leaves are falling off the trees!

Jeez, you know Fall used to be one of my favourite seasons, but outside all the pretty colours I could definitely do without it now days. Just can’t stand the cold anymore and as far as I’m concerned, if the temperature sinks below 21 C or 72 F, it’s bloody cold!

This makes it a bit of a quandary for me, I want to visit with everyone and enjoy my time with them, but the falling temperatures make me want to head south. This year, the urge to just leave…head south…find the sun and the warmth, has infected us more than ever, especially since there is no overriding reason to stay, but….

Being on the Island is the only way I get to spend  time with my youngest daughter, her husband and their  2 small children. This is a busy household,  Liz works as an independent journalist, Food Blogger, recipe developer and Web Site designer from home, her husband is the Vice President of a small computer firm who works both at the office as well as at home and the kids are 3 1/2 years and 15 months old, respectively.  In other words this place is semi-controlled chaos. It’s fun but it sure can be draining and I wouldn’t  miss it for the world, but….it’s getting colder and wetter. Yeah, Fall has arrived on the Island and with it always comes rain, so we are moving quickly now to get our respective shits together, as it were, and hit the road by the end of the month. In the meantime, in our copious free time, when we’re not out visiting with friends or relatives, or babysitting for the kids, or looking for those last minute items, we have to find ways to occupy ourselves.

A week ago my sister asked if I’d like to go see Trooper. Now this was fortuitous as I’ve been communicating recently, with a fairly large group of folks I grew up with and went to school with, 40 years ago in Vancouver. There has been lots of comments about music and bands we listened to when we were kids and the concerts we all attended. The name Trooper, came up more than a few times, so of course I said sure, after all, how many times does one get to relive their youth? (For those who don’t know, Trooper, is a Vancouver band, a BC ikon and a Canadian Musical legend. Their bio says they got started in 1975, though there was an earlier incarnation known as Applejack, and an even earlier one, called Winter’s Green, I’ve known them since way back then. The lead singer and founding member, Ramon McGuire, went to school with my middle sister and the other co-founder Brian Smith, is the cousin of a close friend, who died a couple of years ago. The boys started off life as a school dance band, but they were very good and it didn’t take long for someone to notice. Randy Bachman, of  The Guess Who and Bachman-Turner Overdrive, signed them to his record label, “Legend”, and the rest, as they say in the business, is history.)

Ra, wearing words to live by.

One of their big hits is called, We’re here for a good time, (not a long time).” I have strived all my life to live up to that ideal. As far as I’m concerned, you only get one go-round in this life, so you’d bloody well better make it a good one!

Off we went, and we had a great time!  The last time I saw them in concert, they played the Coliseum in Vancouver, where I and a few thousand other stoned Vancouverites, watched them as the smell of marijuana wafted thick through the air. It was just a tiny bit different last night, as the Charlie White Theatre holds only 310 people, all in assigned seating. So the show was much more intimate, the performers had a chance to interact closely with the audience, and drinks and dancing were actually allowed. The only thing missing was the smell of pot, until about half way through the 2 hour performance, when for just a few moments, a few tendrils of aroma could be sensed in the air.

Ah, the remembrance of youth!

We even ended in the appropriate manner. The boys played their biggest North American hit, “Raise a little hell!” with the audience out of their seats and dancing anywhere there was room;  we’re talking a room full of 50 and 60 somethings, with a few 20 and 30 somethings thrown in for a little spice!

Brian, raising a little hell of his own!

This is also one of my guiding principles in life, as I believe everyone should raise a little hell now and then, as it’s good for the soul!!

So, okay folks, all together now, let’s get out there and….RAISE A LITTLE HELL!

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The place we used to call home.

9 Sep

If you read my post last time, you will be aware that we had visited Campbell River, but I didn’t really tell you much about the place did I?

We moved to Campbell River  December 30, 1987. We had friends who had moved there a few years earlier. This friend had started at the local mill and convinced us that it would be a good idea, employment wise, if we followed him.

It didn’t take that much to convince us, so off we went, kids in tow. Through a series of fortuitous events we ended up buying the place that had been our first and only rental. The owner of the house lived next door, and after 6 months of renting, he was transferred and needed to divest himself of both of his properties. We were only too happy to take him up on the offer.

Float planes of all sorts are common in Campbell River.

The house had windows across the entire front,  it looked east, out over Discovery Passage and across to Quadra Island. Every ship and boat that moved through the pass, including Cruise Ships, were visible from our front windows. Occasionally we could even see pods of Orcas or Pacific White Side Dolphins moving through. Bald Eagles wheeled and dodged (in such large numbers they were commonplace) nesting and perching in nearby trees.

The town was actually known to me since my Dad had visited it years before during a stay at Painter’s Lodge. All I knew was that it was a great place to catch fish and the waters were very dangerous. So, on top of the sheer beauty of the place,  the employment opportunities that were readily available and the need to allow our children to grow up in one place with no disruption, I added in a personal passion and I was sold. I was more than happy to “settle” down for a while.

Campbell River sits at 50 degrees 1’0″ N/125 degrees 15′ 0″W, on the east coast of Vancouver Island. If you look at a map of the Island, we sit on that pointy bit about half way up.  Right behind it is a backyard of logging roads, rivers, streams, caves, lakes, creeks, hills, trails, trees, lots of trees and mountains, some pretty big ones. Big enough to have ski hills on them. Mount Washington, for example which rises 5200 feet and has some of the heaviest falls of snow in all of North America. Damn nice place to ski too!

Painter's Lodge sitting on the north bank of the river mouth

I mentioned caves right? I was wondering if you caught that. This part of Vancouver Island is covered in Karst rock. Karst you say, what the hell is Karst? Karst is a distinctive topography in which the landscape is largely shaped by the dissolving action of water on carbonate bedrock (usually limestone, dolomite, or marble).

Now, to have a “dissolving action of water” one needs to have lots of water and does Campbell River have lots of water? Do bears shit in the woods? The average rainfall in the area is around 50 inches, with 50 more inches of snowfall. That’s the average, some years it rains a lot more than that and the further west you go the more it rains, hence the caves. It’s also the reason why everywhere you look, it’s green, pretty much all year long.

It was a great place to live, work and raise our kids. We boated, fished, caved, skied, camped, hiked and biked everywhere we could. All the while our kids were growing up in a town that was growing and changing as well. It had been a frontier logging and fishing town,  and it was still pretty rough around the edges when we moved there. As time passed, as in all things, the rough edges got knocked off and the town went through a sprucing up. The old girl certainly did clean up well.

Part of the Foreshore path on Tyee Spit

Personally, I think it started with the Fishing Pier. A group of volunteers got together and decided that the Salmon Capital of the World, needed a place where those who had no access to a boat, could wet a line and have a good chance of catching a big chinook.  The Pier was constructed and became an instant and raging success, starting the process that led to the beautification of the downtown, the foreshore path/park and it’s continuation from one end of town to the other, the reclaiming of the Tyee Spit from a run down RV park to a Green Space that’s accessible to everyone, and the Carving Contest that has added grace, art and yes, beauty to all areas of the city.

The back of one of many carvings all around the city

The other side of the same carving. Pretty talented carver, eh?

 

This is where my kids grew up, this is where Richard and I worked and where we all played but it’s no longer our home, not for any of us. I think like kids everywhere that grow up in a small town there is always that desire to get away and head for something bigger and better. Ours certainly felt that way and not long after they graduated they headed for the bright lights of Victoria. So, Empty Nesters we were and we were rather enjoying it, while we continued to work on our plans for retirement at 55 when fate played a nasty hand.  In 2001 my Mother has a “Catastrophic Stroke” leaving her hospitalized and completely incapacitated, 4 months later my brother-in-law died of Liver Cancer. April of 2004, my Mother finally died from complications of the stroke and a month later, my sister was diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer. She died a year later.

Richard and I retired the next year. We decided that all we were really doing at that point was marking time, waiting until we hit 55 so Richard could collect his pension. We crunched the numbers and figured we could make it.

So we pulled up what roots we had grown during our years in Campbell River and hit the road. It’s not like we don’t go back to visit though and for me at least, when we finally round that last corner of the old highway and Shelter Bay comes into view there’s something inside me that whispers “Home” and a strange combination of happiness, nostalgia, sadness and completeness comes over me. It may not be where we live now but I think in some ways it will always be “home” to me.