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Progress!

22 Dec
Just another sunrise, just another day.

Just another sunrise, just another day.

What is it about a blank piece of paper?

Every time I think of something to write about, I sit down in front of my computer and as soon as WORD pops up with it’s electronic facsimile of an empty piece of paper, my mind goes blank. Even when I have great stuff to tell you about, it takes me quite a while to get started.

 

It’s just like it was in school. I was a great writer and consistently got A’s and B’s in English, especially in English Composition, but only if I had a deadline. Not that I wrote anything until just before the paper was due though! I always did my very best work the night before any work was to be handed in. My problem writing this blog is I don’t have a deadline and usually when I think up a great beginning, paragraph or sentence, I’m nowhere near my computer and not being under 30, though I own an I-Touch, I don’t use it to it’s full potential, so I forget it.

 

This time around though, it’s pretty easy because I’m writing this and sending it from my computer, through my Internet set up, here on the beach. That’s right folks, here on Rattlesnake Beach! (Run completely by solar power, of course) A couple of weeks ago, two young men showed up at our end of the beach and introduced themselves as the owner and his assistant of a company called Avantek. They wanted to know if we were interested in signing up for Internet service. Now, there are a great many schemes that happen down here and we were pretty skeptical, but after talking to them and questioning how this was going to work, we realized that they could make it a reality. They could even give us Wi-Fi if we wanted it!

See the little antenna?

See the little antenna?

 

I’ll tell you when word got out, there was a line-up at our door of all the campers on the beach who wanted service.

It took a couple of days because we were the test case and they had to keep adjusting our receiver and then running down south to their tower near Ligui, and changing the direction of the sending unit, but eventually they got all the bugs worked out and we have the Internet at our fingertips whenever we want it.

Now, I’ll bet you think that was expensive right? Well think again, the initial, one time set up fee was $1500.00 pesos, then $250.00 pesos per month, which comes to about $125.00 for the set up and $21.00 per month, try getting that at home! Even though we’re only here for 6 months, when we come back next year, we just have to let them know, they’ll put our equipment back up, and we’ll just start our monthly payments again, no new set up charge.

The only draw back for everyone else on the beach is they sold the first 2 units, to us and another couple down the beach, and then used that money to purchase new equipment, which they are waiting on. Since it’s coming from mainland Mexico, it’s taking a while, which is quite common down here. So it’s going to be another week or so before the rest of the campers are online. They can hardly wait!

This is luxury! It means we don’t have to go into town to use the Internet, which is a 35-kilometer drive and usually entailed having to purchase a meal. Not that that was a problem, but it was money we really didn’t need to spend. Or we could go to the local store just down the road, but the noise level was generally so high from all the conversation going on around you, that you couldn’t hear yourself think, let alone concentrate on what you were doing online.

Now, whenever the mood strikes or a question comes up we can turn on the old laptop and surf or Google to our hearts content!

Which brought up an interesting conversation the other day about progress. We all come from modern, first world countries where the infrastructure has been in place for a long time, but down here that’s not the case. We’ve been coming here for 8 years and some of the folks we share this beach with have been coming for a lot longer than that, some for over 30 years. For them, they can remember dirt roads and the need to have a 4-wheel drive vehicle to make it pretty well anywhere. They talk about going to places where the locals had never seen a Gringo and they could park on any beach, anywhere, even in Cancun, back in the day.

My first experience driving down here on MEX1 was NOT a pleasant one. Most of the highway was only 16 feet wide, with no shoulders, a good 2-foot drop off the sides and potholes that could do serious damage. Having anything larger than a pickup go by in the oncoming lane could be rather terrifying especially since the big semis had to actually veer a bit so our side mirrors wouldn’t smash together as they drove past us. Being passed by a semi or bus was an equally frightening event. A bus passed us one day, so close and so fast that it actually made the aluminum side ripple. It sounded like we had sideswiped each other.

Not to mention the garbage. The northern part of Baja looked like a bomb had gone off in a plastics manufacturing facility. There were plastic bags and bits of plastic in every direction, stuck on trees, bushes and cactus, so many that we were told even the locals joked about them being the unofficial flag of Mexico. In lots of towns, none of the roads were paved and water came from pumps strategically placed at the end of roads in every neighbourhood. Hardly anyone had plumbed water to his or her home. The streets were filled with garbage of every conceivable type, and everyone just stepped over and around it. It was, most assuredly, not pleasant!

Every year we drove down, there was less and less of the garbage, the roads got wider, the asphalt thicker, the pot holes were filled in, more vados (areas were the arroyos cross over roads) had bridges built over them and the services available increased exponentially. More and more dirt roads were paved and plumbing was becoming part of every household. The old street side pumps were disappearing. Of course, less and less beaches were available to camp on (as the land was being bought up) and those that were, now had a rental fee attached, but that was okay too since it included a garbage pickup.

At first, Internet was only available at businesses that had a couple of PC’s, the connections were poor, down loading was impossible and most of the time an e-mail could be sent, eventually, for about 10 pesos an hour. Occasionally you’d see someone with a cell phone but most calls happened at pay phone booths spread all over town.

A few years later some of the restaurants in town put in Wi-Fi with a good sized bandwidth and suddenly their customer base increased as the Gringos looked for somewhere to access the net while eating a meal or drinking a beer at the same time.

Fast forward a few more years, Wi-Fi is available in many places including the local store down by our beach, everyone has a cell phone, there’s still a little garbage around but nothing like it was before and the roads are starting to look like highways back home. Some places have been expanded to 4 (or 6, we’re still trying to figure it out) lanes including the highway leading south out of Loreto.

The changes have improved life for the locals too. In Loreto, most of the side streets are now paved or will be soon, almost every home has electricity and not a roadside water pump is to be found.

With Internet so readily available even the poorest citizen, who previously couldn’t even afford a TV, can now see the world, not just their small part of it.

It’s made our lives easier so much easier too as we can now contact our kids at anytime and have real time conversations with our grandkids without interruption or distraction.

I guess only time will tell if this is going to be a good or bad thing for the locals, but one thing is for sure, in a place like Baja progress is noticeable, recognizable, and so far, moving at high speed!

 

A curious herd of donkeys we met on one of our hikes. You just never know what you're going to see down here!

The above photo is here to show you that even with all the changes, old Mexico is still right around the corner. We came across these curious donkeys on one of our hikes and you still see the occasional horse, mule or donkey, complete with tack,  tied up beside a very modern store or restaurant in Loreto. It’s kind of nice that the old still co-exists side by side with the new.

 

Before I sign off I just want to take this moment to wish all of you Feliz Navidad and Prospero Anos Nuevo! See you in 2014!

Nothing is ever easy!

11 Aug

Well, it was a fairly normal summer up until the middle of last month. We’d come home and helped the eldest daughter plant the summer garden, and put in a new floor in their garage, (it’s both the workout gym and her husbands Man Cave). Not to mention lots of Grandma and Grandpa time!

Spent lots of time to-ing and fro-ing on these this summer!

Spent lots of time to-ing and fro-ing on these this summer!

Then it was off to the island to help our youngest and her family settle into their new home. I spent the month painting, replacing electrical outlets and switches, trimming trees and planting a raised bed garden, while Richard was putting in a new hot water tank, faucets, toilets, cutting down cedar hedges run amok, ripping out plants gone wild, building an indoor chin up bar for their garage gym and a chin up/rings bar outside so they could keep up with their Crossfit training and of course, more Grandma/Grandpa time!

A Chin-up and ring box for Crossfitting

A Chin-up and ring box for Crossfitting

Oh, and he installed a solar system on Rosie, so our van now has all the power we could ever need! Having a son-in-law who works for one of the foremost solar companies in the world was handy. He works for Carmanah Technologies and they’ve finally decided to build portable systems for the general public, perfect for vans and small RV’s, simple to install and use. The system is call GO POWER and if you’re interested, check it out here: gpelectric.com

We also visited with Richards Dad, sister and brother-in-law as well as my sister and niece. It was busy but lots of fun, and then it was back to Penticton. Once back we stuffed our faces with cherries and Richard built a new fence and Alena and I stained it. Work, work, work, work, work, work, work!

Then about half way through July, our youngest Liz, called us to ask when we were coming back to visit as her son Cohen had asked one night before bed. Well, we really didn’t have anything pressing for the next 3 weeks so we decided to head for the island again, but this time we took a longer and slower route, not much longer and not much slower but very pretty and we hadn’t been that way in a quite a few years.

A couple of young Big Horn Sheep ewes.

A couple of young Big Horn Sheep ewes.

We headed north towards Kelowna, then took Highway 97C to Merrit, also known as The Connector as it meets up with the Coquihalla Highway just east of Merrit proper. We, however, were not going that way. The Coquihalla is a high speed route, over the mountains, very steep and really nasty in the winter, but it cuts 30 minutes off the trip and it’s the shortest land route from Vancouver to Edmonton. Not really our cup of tea! There are some spectacular sights along the way, but there really isn’t anywhere to stop to admire them and the high speed limits preclude tootling along. So we continued through Merrit along Highway 8 which runs through the Nicola Valley, a very pretty, slower route.

We saw a couple of Rocky Mountain Big Horn ewes, pretty close up and personal as they didn’t seem to be to concerned about our presence and we camped the night at a Forestry Campsite along the river. These types of sites are everywhere in BC, run and maintained by the Forest Service and can consist of simply places to rough camp with outhouses, all the way up to campsites with picnic tables, garbage collection and fee collection. The rates run from nothing to $10.00 per night.

The view from our Forestry campsite in the Nicola Valley

The view from our Forestry campsite in the Nicola Valley

If this is the way you like to camp get yourself a book called Backroads Map Books. I think there are 6 for all the different areas of BC depending on where you want to go and they will show you all the back road, logging road and off road routes, Forestry as well as Provincial campsites and fishing areas. If you spend a lot of time wandering around BC or you might in the future, these books are a necessity!

After leaving our lovely campsite we headed further west until we met up with Highway 1, at Spences Bridge and turned south onto Highway 1, the Fraser Canyon. This was just after all the big floods in southeastern BC and western Alberta so the water was definitely high!

It was kind of a sad trip down the canyon though, we were there in the middle of July and there appeared to be not a tourist in sight. Everywhere we looked, businesses were closed, private Campsites, Motels, Restaurants, even gas stations, certainly nothing like I was used to seeing! Up until that point every time we’d driven the canyon the traffic was so thick nobody managed to even come close to the speed limit, with vehicles pulled off everywhere to stop and take pictures. The place was alive with White water rafters, tourists of every descriptions and Hells Gate usually had so many people waiting to take the tram and view the rapids that you had to be extremely careful driving past so you didn’t run anybody over! This year there was no one to be seen and traffic was so light as to be almost non-existant!

This is sediment heavy water from the Fraser River mixing with the sea waters of Georgia Straights after all the flooding in Alberta and southwestern BC.

This is sediment heavy water from the Fraser River mixing with the sea waters of Georgia Straights after all the flooding in Alberta and southwestern BC.

We made it over to the island, sat and talked with the kids and grandkids, then after dinner, we headed to the local park to take the kids for a bit of play time and the dogs for a walk. My kids have taken up Crossfitting and so have I, just not to the extent they have. While we were fooling around on the play ground equipment, I grabbed a chest height bar and and leapt up planning on landing on my stomach, but I miscalculated and missed by about an half an inch. I smacked the bar right between my two lowest ribs on the right side. Ouch!!

Great, we’d been on the island for 2 hours!

We headed back, with me feeling foolish and not really sure of how badly I’d hurt myself. The next morning, with me moving cautiously, I made breakfast for us. Richard took one bite  and then exclaimed, “Oh, oh”. He’d broken a tooth! ALL of Richards teeth are capped and this one had broken  under the cap and below the gum line!

Great, we’d only been on the island now for barely 12 hours!

We spent the next 3 weeks with Richard going back and forth to the dental surgeon for x-rays, exams, more x-rays, cleaning, then finally extracting the tooth, not to mention the two of us hanging with the kids, and me wincing, playing with the grandkids and me wincing, dog and house sitting, oh, and painting one more wall. and me wincing! He was supposed to have an implant but due to insufficient bone mass, and a really difficult extraction, that’s not going to happen until next year.

Why is nothing ever easy?

Our first night on the way to Carmanah. It's amazing the places you can find to camp just off the road on Vancouver Island!

Our first night on the way to Carmanah. It’s amazing the places you can find to camp just off the road on Vancouver Island! Notice the Carmanah “GO POWER” solar set up!

While we were waiting for the final appointment, we decided to hit the road for a couple of days, just to relax, turn the phones off, and be alone. So we decided on a circle route that not many people know about, from Victoria to Duncan, via Port Renfrew with a stop in the Carmanah Valley Provincial Park, then back to Victoria, via Highway 19.

We headed for Langford then hit Highway 14 which took us out to Port Renfrew. This is a gorgeous drive that parallels the Juan de Fuca Trail. Just before you drive into Port Renfrew proper, you’ll see a road and a sign on the left hand side that says “Lake Cowichan”. This is the part of the route that few actually know about. It meanders towards the south side of Lake Cowichan and Honeymoon Bay. When we reached the intersection of Honeymoon Bay and Nitinat Lake we turned right towards Nitinat.

A view from one of the many bridges along the way.

A view from one of the many bridges along the way.

Part of Nitinat Lake

Part of Nitinat Lake

If we’d been following the signs for Carmanah Valley Provincial Park we never would have found it as the signage got smaller and less noticeable as we got closer. Not to mention, once we hit the intersection we needed to take just before the village of Nitinat, the road conditions deteriorated drastically and the signage continued to shrink in size and noticeability.

Carmanah Valley Provincial Park was created, in reality, by those who literally fought to stop the valley from being logged. It contained some of the last standing old growth Sitka Spruce (including one that is considered to be the worlds largest) and Cedar forests on Vancouver Island and was the site for what became known as “The War in the Woods”.

Just one of the many giants in Carmanah Valley.

Just one of the many giants in Carmanah Valley.

Opposition to the logging was expressed in several peaceful protests and blockades of logging roads from 1980 to 1994. The largest event occurred in the summer of 1993, when over 800 protestors were arrested and many put on trial. Protestors included local residents of the area, First Nation bands, and environmentalist groups such as Greenpeace and Friends of the Clayoquot Sound.
The portrayal of the logging protests and blockades received worldwide media attention, and created national support for environmental movements in BC and fostered strong advocacy for anti-logging campaigns. The park was officially created in 1995 which was the first time I visited it.

The 3 Sisters, a grouping of giant Sitka Spruce.

The 3 Sisters, a grouping of giant Sitka Spruce.

The accessible area makes up only about 1/100 of the park and there are walkways so you can get over numerous springs and bogs to get to the largest trees without having to walk over their roots which are susceptible to damage.

This fallen tree was more than 7 feet in diameter and it's one of the smaller ones in the park.

This fallen tree was more than 7 feet in diameter and it’s one of the smaller ones in the park.

I was very disappointed with the state of both the road and the park itself. The logging road has been allowed to deteriorate to such a degree that I’d say anything bigger than our van, Rosie, will not be able to make it down the road in the very near future as the trees have grown over the road and are closing in from both sides. The park itself looks like not a cent has been spent on the place for the last 30 years, the walkways were broken or shoved to the side, areas where water has damaged the paths haven’t been fixed, and the whole place has a aura of neglect and decay. It almost feels as if the government is hoping either the public will forget about the place, so that they can turn it back over to the logging companies, or they are trying to create one of those parks that exist  to protect a rare ecosystem while being inaccessible to the public.

(There’s nothing wrong with that, if that’s the plan, but our Provincial government which has been in power since 2001, and is very definitely pro logging. They have produced many “papers” over the last few years that suggest logging in our Provincial parks is necessary for the health of the logging companies. No so much interested in the health of the parks though!)

The condition of the road into the park. In another couple of years the road will be so overgrown, nothing will be able to get down it!

The condition of the road into the park. In another couple of years the road will be so overgrown, nothing will be able to get down it!

Either of these things would be a slap in the fact to all those who fought to save this beautiful area from destruction and bring it to the attention of the general public and make it accessible all those years ago!

Our last night camp before heading back to Victoria.

Our last night camp before heading back to Victoria.

We visited the park, then found a very pretty hunters campsite to spend our second night, just down the road from the park. The next morning we headed out intending to spend one more night somewhere around Lake Cowichan before we had to back for Richard’s surgery, but we made the fatal mistake of turning on the cell phones! Lo and behold there was a message from daughter #1 telling us Richard had a prescription waiting for him in Sidney that he needed to start taking it 24 hours before his dentists appointment, so we reluctantly headed back down the island.

On the Friday, Richard had his surgery and the next morning we headed back to Penticton. We’ll stay here now till the beginning of September, picking up the last little bits of things we need for Baja, then after the Labour Day weekend, we’ll head back to the island. We’ll stay for a while visiting and picking up the things we know we can only get in Victoria, then say our reluctant goodbyes to our kids and grandkids, then on to the Port Angeles Ferry, down the Olympic Peninsula, and off to Baja.

Next time we talk, we’ll be back on our beach and I’ll tell you all about our adventures getting there.

TTFN

Home away from home!

4 May

So, what do I tell you? When we got home, the first little while was spent renewing our family ties with daughter #1, her husband, and their daughter. I have to say that we were slightly depressed to not have been able to spend the time we had wanted coming home and visiting with friends along the way. We also had to get used to the major temperature difference, the weather and being back in the city. God, it’s amazing how bad some of the drivers are here!

One of the reasons we come home every summer.

When we left, our original plan was to get the broken part, have Richard fly down with it, get Grummy fixed then drive her home. That plan morphed completely as we drove north.

The stress level from our dash home had subsided somewhat, at least for me and the push was on to find a suitable replacement for our Suzuki. Something that we could sleep in and be able to cook simple meals in, be comfortable for Richard, the dog, and myself, plus get reasonable fuel mileage.

Azeet made herself at home.

The Grummy is our home and contains everything we own, so we rapidly became aware of everything we had left behind. We had to buy new clothes, shoes, dog blankets, exercise sweats, sandals, and personal products, just to mention a few things.

We settled into a routine, every day we checked all the different sales lists on the Internet that applied to our local area. We’d e-mail our findings to one another and for various reasons we’d reject them. Too small, too big, uses too much gas, too old, too expensive! In the meantime, we lived in our daughters’ spare bedroom. We thought it would work out, transferring between our kid’s houses and their spare rooms but we realized fairly soon that the quarters were just too close, and we needed our own space.

Just because we’re home doesn’t mean we stop exercising. This was a nice hike up a hill between Lake Okanagan and Skaha Lake

We love our kids and truly enjoy spending time with them and our grandkids but living right inside all the chaos that small children generate was starting to be waaay too much.

We had to go to the Island for the end of the month and again as much as we love our kids, the idea of spending a large amount of time inside a house with 2 kids, 2 dogs and 2 adults who start their day every morning at 6 AM with a heavy duty workout was going to be something we didn’t want to have to deal with, so the push to find a suitable vehicle was on and amazingly enough it only actually took a week!

Our newest home on wheels!

We found a camper van that was in good shape, had reasonably low mileage and the price was definitely within our budget. We looked at it in Kelowna, bought it the same day, and then trundled it home to Penticton. It was in need of a few minor repairs but we also needed to furnish and outfit it so we could use it on a regular basis. New pots, pans, dishes, towels, bedding, Everything we needed to live, had to be purchased and trust me, more than once both of us expressed the frustration of knowing we already had plenty of the same things sitting in Grummy, but were unable to access them.

So now we have two mobile homes, one in Mexico and one here in Canada, along with a Suzuki, an Asuna and a Geo. The Suzuki and Asuna are going on the market and we hope to recoup our purchase costs for the van by selling the cars before the end of the summer. Here’s hoping!

So there you go, we finally managed to find a new, albeit slightly smaller, home away from home. We had actually talked about doing this same thing in the near future but I guess the fates decided we were going to do it this year.

Nothing like a little excitement to keep you on your toes eh?

Heading to the 25th parallel

13 Oct

Hidy Ho Campers! Here we are on beautiful Rattlesnake Beach in Southern Baja, once more, ready for another winter in the sun.

Daytime temperature is 33c and nights cool down to a balmy 22c. The water is holding steady at 28c. Yeah, I know that’s rubbing it in but hey, this IS a blog about travelling and I’d certainly be remiss if I didn’t tell my viewing audience what to expect if they decide to come for a visit or want to live vicariously through me, right?

Now, the last little missive I posted told you I have a peeve I want to rant about, so I might as well get it off my chest right away. I started to notice as we slowly made our way down roads less travelled that everything had a name; roads, bridges, overpasses, parks, beaches, trails, underpasses, byways, freeways, you name it. (hahaha, sorry)

Lake Crescent, northern Washington, on Hwy 101

What got me going was that almost everything was named after, in most cases, “Some Politician”.  Now, I tried looking up some of these names and for the most part Google just went “Huh?” What is it about your average politician that they just have to have some edifice named after them, especially since within 20 years, no one is going to remember who the hell they were, except maybe their closest friends, (Is that possible?) and relatives.

I’ll give you an example, in the town we lived in, there was a lovely park in the downtown core, on the foreshore and it was called simply, Foreshore Park. Kind of says it all doesn’t it? Certainly tells you where and what. A couple of years after a Mayor who had served for 3 terms died, his wife and political cronies who still made up the city council decided it would be a great idea to rename the park after him. So in their finite wisdom, the local politicians changed the name to the “Robert V. Ostler Park”. Pretty much everyone still refers to it as Foreshore Park and even my kids who grew up there have only a vague recollection as to who Robert V. Ostler was. Give it another 10-15 years and only those who stroll through City hall and see his name on the list of mayors will have any clue.

The first beach we came to in Washington State, Ruby Beach

Don’t get me wrong, I see no problem naming things after “famous” politicians, you know, the ones you learn about in school or read about in history books, but the local ones? Give me a break! These, as far as I’m concerned are just a bunch of arrogant, self-centered egotists who see a way of giving themselves a form of immortality and the really crazy thing is, WE GO ALONG WITH IT!

Okaaaaay…..enough about that.

Back to our story…

We were enjoying our last visit with our youngest daughter and her family, playing with our Grandkids, sampling the fruits of their garden and being overwhelmed with her gustatory expertise when the rain started. Sure it was only a little and the sun did come back out every day, but the temperature was going down and this year there was nothing holding us back. Richard was starting to get antsy but I kept delaying leaving as a Mexican Visa is only good for 180 days and the last thing I wanted was to be coming home in March. Richard however, held out a carrot. I have a last surviving aunt in Ontario so he suggested that we could work our way along the southern US and then up into Ontario before we headed home. Damn, that was a good carrot!

One of many, free, secluded spots we always find on our travels

Cape Ferrolo, Ore. The last time we saw the sun. If you have the time and the weather permits by all means travel the 101. The views are to die for.

Once again we took the Coho Ferry across to Port Angeles, but this time we turned right instead of left and took the 101 Hwy down the Pacific Coast. The weather was good and we moseyed down the road instead of thundered. The scenery was gorgeous and we had high hopes for a slow, picturesque journey, hopping from secluded forest campsites, to beautiful beaches, all the way down the Washington, Oregon coasts, with a side trip to McMinnville in northern Oregon.

The best shot I could get. Big isn't it?

McMinnville is a small town but it contains one of the biggest airplanes ever built, Howard Hughes’ Spruce Goose. This is the crowning glory of The Evergreen Air and Space Museum there and though we had known about this place for sometime, our route and/or schedule had never let us stop and visit. This time we did and we spent the day wandering around, while outside the weather was summer like…and that was the last time we saw the sun, until we crossed the Mexican border.

Not bad eh? Okay it's a picture of a picture, but if you like space stuff, this is a good place to start!

I’ve only included one picture of the Spruce Goose because it’s impossible to get a correct perspective of this baby, but suffice it to say that there are over 100 planes of all sizes nestled under her wings. If you’ve ever been up close and personal with the Martin Mars, you’ll have some idea, but even these don’t come close to the Goose. If you get the chance, enjoy looking at historic airplanes or are interested in the history of the space race from both the American and Russian perspective, go, it’s worth the visit. McMinnville is on Highway 18, just south of Portland and be prepared to spend the day!

Well, folks that’s enough for now. You know where we are and the winter is just beginning, so stand by for the continuing adventures of Travels with Grummy!

TTFN

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!

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.

OVER ON THE ISLAND

12 Aug

When I worked as a fishing guide in Campbell River, I got asked a lot of questions about a lot of things. Many of them were about the area and the island itself. Now, as I’ve been known to say over the years, my brain is full of useless trivia, (I’m a wiz at Trivial Pursuits) and I always loved history, so I made sure I had as much of the information available to offer up as possible.

She is one of the best reasons for visiting the island

“How big is it?” “Well, it’s 460 kilometres (290 mi) long and 80 kilometres (50 mi)wide at its widest point.

“Where did the names come from?” “Most  of the places around here are named after the original Spanish explorers and the members of the crews of 3 English ships. George Vancouver’s HMS Discovery and HMS Chatham which explored the waters of Vancouver Island from 1791 to 1794. Then in 1859, the cartography ship  HMS Plumper arrived to chart the Island.

Since the Spanish had been on the island since 1774, part of Vancouver’s job was negotiating with the Spanish Commander of the Nootka Sound settlement, Juan Francisco de la Bodega y Quadra. They got on well and Vancouver decided to honour a request from him to commemorate their friendly meetings by giving the island the name of Quadra and Vancouver Island, though as you can tell, over the years the name has been shortened and Quadra’s name was given to another island.”

“What’s the tallest mountain?” “The Golden Hinde; it’s the highest peak in the Vancouver Island Range, (Stupid name, right?) They run down the centre of the island like a backbone.”

“Golden Hind, isn’t that a deer?” No, that was the name of Sir Francis Drake’s ship.” “Oh”.

Kid and grandkid walking on Sidney Pier

“Sure is pretty. Does it rain much?” “Depending on where you are the amount of rainfall can be as high as 260 inches per year, the highest in North America, or as low as 24 inches in Victoria, the largest city and capital of British Columbia.This is after all a Temperate Rain forest”

“260 INCHES!!” “Yep, but we generally only get about 100 inches per year here.” (meaning Campbell River)That’s why it’s so green here.”

“What are real estate prices like here?”   “Whoa, if you want to buy property here, you need to come back in February.”

“February, why February? Is that some sort of weird Canadian thing? Are you only allowed to buy land in February?”

“No, you can buy land here anytime, but you need to come in February to see if you really want to buy!”     “What’s so special about February then?”

“Well, you know we were talking about the rain and how pretty and green things are around here?”     “Yeah.”

“February is when it rains the worst. Not necessarily the most, but the worst.” “Waddaya mean?”

“February is the grey month, when the wind is blowing a South easter at about 50 miles per hour and the rain is coming down in sheets sideways and it’s been doing that for 2 straight weeks! The sky is grey, the land is grey and the people are grey. So if you can stand living here in February, then you can stand it during the good months!”

“My Wife hates the rain, but it sure is pretty!”

Does this look like somewhere you'd like to visit?

And it is. In most months it’s green, verdant, lush and down around the bottom of the island, with it’s Mediterranean  climate, during Summer and Fall, it’s full to the brim with gardens; flower, fruit and vegetable. Everywhere, there are street markets, outdoor entertainment, food vendors, and produce stands. In some ways it reminds me of a scene out of  Medieval times, just sans costume.

Finally, I get to view the island from another angle. No longer a resident, but a visitor. To be sure, a knowledgable visitor, but now a visitor none the less. From this view, the place fairly vibrates with energy. (Nice segue, don’t you think?)

We came to visit our friends and family, and it’s been fun. We’re staying with our youngest and her family. My daughter is a food blogger and a chef. She develops recipes and believes in organic, whole, raw foods. She’s also a calorie counter, so we eat low calorie, healthy, great tasting food, most of which they grow themselves. They even raise their own meat and egg chickens. Some of which just went to the butcher yesterday. Mmmm, real free range chicken!

The survivors. These are the egg layers, the meat birds went into the freezer on Tuesday!

One cannot live on chicken alone, however. My son-in-law loves to fish but since they moved to Saanich he hasn’t been able to take their little lake boat out, so they came up with a brand new plan.

The town of Sidney, is about 20 miles north of Victoria, on the Saanich peninsula. At one time this sleepy little village was on the verge of decrepitude, but over the last 20 years has been reborn into a vibrant and interesting tourist destination. One of the things the town did to reinvent itself was to build a fishing pier. Now this is nothing new, Campbell River built the worlds first saltwater fishing pier many years ago and you really can catch all of the different species of salmon from it.

The Sidney pier doesn’t cut it as a “fishing” pier, as there are no big salmon runs nearby and except for a few small bullheads, nothing much in the way of piscatorial action happens there. Though, as a crabbing pier it’s perfect! It sits out over protected, shallow waters that have low tidal action. The bottom under the pier is perfect for the wandering, feeding crabs and it’s easy to put crab pots in and retrieve them. It’s also rather pretty.

All ready for crabbing

This was the new plan and armed with a crab trap, rope, bucket, bait, regulations and license, not to mention spouse and kids, off they went to catch crab from the pier and damned if they weren’t successful. Mostly they catch Red Rock crab, but once in a while they luck out and get a Dungeness. We’ve been off doing it together and I can see that it’s going to become habit forming for them, at least as long as the weather allows.

So here we are, eating fresh vegetables and chickens they raised themselves, fresh crab we caught and surrounded by fruit just waiting to be picked. (Blackberry, Salmonberry, Thimbleberry, Apples, Plums, Pears, Figs, even Walnuts)

Success! Mmmmm tasty!

Good friends, loving family, reasonable weather and great food, it doesn’t get much better than this!