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NO MEN ALLOWED

3 Jul

 

Painter’s Lodge, sitting at the mouth of the Campbell River.


Every year since 1992, Painter’s Lodge in Campbell River, B.C., has hosted a women’s only fishing derby. As a rookie guide on the dock, I didn’t get the chance to fish the first one, but I did guide the next 14. Since I was the only female guide on the dock, I was a favourite with the contestants, so much so that when I announced my retirement in 2006, the ladies were horrified.

 

At the award ceremonies that year, I was called up to the front of the room and stood there perplexed. None of the 3 sets of ladies I had guided over the tournament had caught a winner with me, so I couldn’t figure out why I was standing there. The next thing I knew, another senior guide came up to the front and announced that the ladies would not hear of me not being there and since I wasn’t going to guide anymore, I should come as a contestant! My seat was paid for courtesy of all the ladies attending that year. They had all chipped in and paid my way!

 

Since that day, I have attended all but one, and that only because I was dealing with torn muscles in both shoulders. (Don’t ask!) This year was no different.

 

Travelling Highway 97C

I now live in Penticton, and the journey is a fairly long one, so off we set, my daughter Alena and I, early in the morning of June 21st. The derby didn’t actually start officially, until 10 AM June 22nd, but since we had to drive to Vancouver, take a ferry across to Nanaimo, then drive the rest of the way to Campbell River, we figured getting there a day early was a good idea.

 

We drove north to access Highway 97C, more casually known as the Connector, bypassed Merritt to hit the Coquihalla Pass, then down the Trans Canada Highway through Hope and down the Fraser Valley into Vancouver.

Going across the Port Mann Bridge
There isn’t supposed to be water behind the front group of trees.

 

The Fraser was running extremely high and all week before we left, we had been watching the news hoping we wouldn’t be forced to cancel our plans because of mudslide or flooding. It doesn’t matter which route you take, to get from Penticton to Vancouver, requires you to eventually drive down all or part of the Fraser River Valley. Though there had been a few small slides and flooding in some very low-lying areas, we were lucky and the highway remained open.

One of many rocks and islets that dot the Straights of Georgia.

 

A sister ferry heading back to the mainland.

I know that sounds like a short trip but it takes 4 hours of steady driving to get to Vancouver, then another 45 minutes to get through to the North Shore and into Horseshoe Bay to catch the ferry for Nanaimo. The ferry trip across, to me, is usually uneventful and rather boring because I’ve been travelling it since I was a little girl, but when I look at it with the eyes of a tourist, it makes me realize just how beautiful this area actually is. I know that sounds trite and it is, but there really isn’t anything else one could say without having to resort to a thesaurus. As the ferry pulled away from the dock, the background of highways, marinas, tall buildings and homes faded slowly away and was replaced by the multihued, verdant greens and disparate browns of the shorelines of the mainland, Vancouver Island and the various smaller islands and islets that the ferry passes on the way to it’s destination, the Port of Nanaimo. Upon arrival it was off north, heading for Campbell River, where we spent the night with some old friends.

Our welcome!

 

Since Campbell River was our home for 20 years, we took our time in the morning, picking up the odd necessity for our 3-night stay and our favourite types of boat food, arriving in good time, which gave me the chance to say hello to a few old friends, who still work at the lodge.

 

The other guests started arriving and eventually we were in full swing. First, there is the registration, licensing, and gift bag give out, then lunch, guide assignments, room assignments, unpacking and then dressing for the first fishing, which takes place from 4PM to 8PM.

The first night out, calm, and very wet!

 

The called for rain had finally arrived with a vengeance and it was going to be a very wet evening. Off we went, every boat out to win!

 

I have the unique experience of being the only contestant who has both guided the derby and been an entrant; so a little background would be in order.

 

The original derby had a maximum of 100 women, all 50 boats on our dock would be used for the derby and every Guide took this one more seriously than all the others, since this one carried a prize for the Guide who guided the biggest fish, a 3 day trip to the Queen Charlotte islands. It was the only time that women outnumbered men in the lodge and it used to scare the crap out of all of the boys. There would be frantic preparation on the dock and unusually, no information sharing was taking place amongst the Guides! Special lures were cleaned, hooks sharpened, rods and reels run through their paces and secret spots closely guarded.

 

Fishing partners, out for a good time, and a few fish!

Each boat was always trying it’s best to win, but even in the pouring rain, as uncomfortable as only sitting in rubber in a downpour can make you didn’t mean that there wasn’t fun! Every time a fish was hit all the other boats cheered them on and clapped when a fish was finally netted. Jokes were told from boat to boat and good natured jibes filled the air. Most of these women, including myself are friends, though many of us only get the chance to see each other at the derby and we look forward to it all year. Sure there is intense rivalry, but it’s all done with great good humour.

Alena’s first fish, a nice 12 pound Chinook.

 

At 8 we all arrived back on the dock, where the few fish taken that night were weighed in. Then it was off to dinner, a couple of drinks, door prizes, then to bed because 5AM came damned early. Yep, I said 5AM! If you wanted to eat before going fishing that is. The boats left the dock at 6 and the rain that had been pouring all night continued unabated until moments before we arrived on the fishing grounds. The rain might have stopped and the sun came out, but the wind came up and it got lumpy. More than a few ladies complained of feeling a wee bit queasy by the time we were done!

 

We fished until 10AM, with the possible winner arriving on the dock, a 34-pound Chinook. My daughter caught a nice 12 pound Chinook, not in the running for the top 3 prizes but certainly capable of taking one of 3 hidden weight prizes. The rest of the day was given over to whatever the guests wanted to do, at least until 4PM.

 

Every year the derby has a theme and since this was the 20th Annual derby the theme was, quite naturally, the Roaring 20’s. The wine and cheese takes place in the gardens at 4PM and costumes are expected. Every year, though there are no prizes, great effort and thought is put into the costumes. We drink a little wine, eat a few appetizers, take a lot of pictures and head in to the dining room for dinner, and then we party!

I came as Auntie Mame. Kind of fits doesn’t it?

 

There is always some sort of live entertainment, more door prizes, music, dancing and drinking. Sadly, there are few who have the fortitude to last very long, what with the late night before and the very early morning, but we try to soldier on as long as we can.

 

In the public parts of the lodge hang many photos of guests taken during the 20’s. These ladies came dressed as the women in one of the photos.

The final day started slowly as always, and in ones and twos, the ladies gradually appeared, to enjoy a lovely buffet breakfast, sitting on the balcony in the blazing sun. The weather was finally cooperating and at 11AM we all hit the water for one last chance to win it all! Back in by 3PM, it was apparent that a couple of big fish had come in, so there was a competition for 2nd and 3rd, but nothing came close to knocking the 34lber out of first!

Alena’s second fish

 

Alena again came home with a small 10 pound Chinook this time and I took in a respectable Ling Cod. It may not have been a valid entry but hey, they taste great and salmon is NOT my first choice in fish cuisine.

 

Richard, my friend and our intrepid guide for the last 4 hours of fishing on Sunday.

We had time for a shower and drink then down for dinner and the awards. At this meal it’s customary for the guides to attend if they wish and certainly the winning guide comes, to be wined and dined by the guest who took the top prize. Dinner is always steak and being the meat eater that I am, I enjoy this meal over all. Damn, but Painter’s cooks a mean steak!

 

The First Place trophy

After desert are the official prize presentations, with 1st prize being a choice between a paid trip back to the derby next year, or a trip to the Queen Charlottes. Then we wandered off to the pub for a riotous night of live entertainment, and a little more drinking and dancing.

 

Eventually the night came to an end and all of us headed to bed. The next morning, those who caught nothing the previous 3 days and were determined to give it one last shot were out on the water again at 6 AM, but Alena and I were just packing up and heading home, retracing our steps and planning the trip back next year.

 

The prize for 3rd place.

The Painter’s Lodge Ladies Derby is 3 days of nothing but women fishing, laughing, dancing, talking, singing and having a really good time, with no men allowed! If this sounds like a something you’d like to do then contact Oak Bay Marine Group and get on the list. You might want to hurry though; the ladies who were there this year are mostly all going back next year including Alena and me, baring unforeseen circumstances, that doesn’t leave many vacant spots!

 

 

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There are things to do everywhere!

6 Jun

So I finally got around to writing another post. My problem, once I get home is I can’t think of anything to write about. This blog is supposed to be about travelling and I don’t know about you, but like most folks I don’t think of “Travelling” when I move about in areas that I’m familiar with.

 

Then it dawned on me that just because I’ve been on BC Ferries hundreds of times and Victoria is just this city I’ve hung around in for years, doesn’t mean that any one reading this blog would have the slightest idea what this place is like, how pretty it is, how diverse the province is or what are the things that make this place interesting. Then I went to a cultural event that made me realize all of us can be tourists in our own familiar areas.

 

I have lived in British Columbia since 1959 and on Vancouver Island since 1977. In every place I’ve lived there are events of all sizes and sorts, rodeos, festivals, happenings.

 

One of the many Clans set up to educate the public.

What prompted me to make this realization and to write this particular blog was the Annual Highland Games in Victoria. As I said, I’ve lived on the island for years, the vast majority of both of our families did or do live there and thanks to my Mother, a Scottish war bride, I have a Gaelic inheritance, yet I had never had the chance to attend.

 

This year, everything came together and I finally got to go.

I have to say, it was worth it.

 

It was a 2-day affair and since the weather was looking good for the Saturday, off we went. The place was full of tartans, kilts, and bagpipes. The events scheduled included, sheep dog trials, Single Malt Whiskey school, Tug-o-wars, Haggis tasting, Falconry and Medieval Weaponry displays, Pipe and Drum bands, and Band Major competitions. You could look up the history of your family name or clan affiliation and find what tartan you were entitled to wear. But the biggest draw was the Highland games. A Gaelic/Celtic (the word Gaelic is pronounced Gahlic) tradition that oral history tells us is older than Christianity.

 

One of the many dogs showing their stuff. “That’ll do dog, that’ll do!”

The gatherings were essentially war games designed to select the best warriors in each family tribe or clan.

The first Games in Scotland were organized and designated as a sporting event and held in the 11th century. During the reign of King Malcom III (1058-1093), a fairly flat meadowland, the Brae O’Mar, along the river Dee, was used for a royal contest to find the swiftest and strongest in the kingdom.

Games were held throughout Scotland until the Battle of Culloden in 1746. After Bonnie Prince Charlie’s defeat by the English, the Act of Proscription banned playing of the bagpipe, wearing of the kilt, gathering together of the people, and the carrying of arms under the penalty of deportation or death. That effectively squelched a good part of the Highland culture, and literally destroyed the old clan structure.

After the repeal of the Proscription, in the latter part of the 18th Century, Highland Societies began forming, and in 1781 the first society Gathering was held at Falkirk. The success of this venture led to the Gathering of the Clans and the Highland Games, as we know them today. By the end of the 1820s the games were once again being held throughout Scotland.

 

One of the birds showing off their talents, oh, and the handler too.

The Victoria Highland Games are the oldest cultural event in the city going back to the founding of Victoria when Scottish influence was at it’s strongest, this year celebrating their 149th gathering.

 

Though there were many things to do on this occasion, the big draw was the Heavy Events. The most well known is of course the Caber Toss, but it’s not the only athletic activity.

 

There is the Stone Put, an event that is split into 2 versions, the Braemar Stone and the Open Stone. The Braemar, uses a rock that weighs in at 20-26 pounds cradled against the neck and is thrown with one hand, from a standing position, whereas the Open Stone uses a 16-22 pound rock. This version again requires the rock to be cradled against the neck and thrown with one hand, but allows any technique, usually either gliding or spinning.

 

The Scottish Hammer Throw is similar to the modern version with one large difference. The round metal ball, weighing 22 pounds is fixed to a shaft about 4 feet in length, made of wood, bamboo, rattan or plastic. This is whirled around the head and thrown over the shoulder for distance.

 

The Weight for Distance is broken down into 2 events as well. The Light version uses a 28-pound rock; the Heavy uses a 56-pound rock. The rock is thrown one-handed using a spinning technique and is thrown, obviously, for distance.

Throwing the Weight for Distance

 

The Weight over Bar or Weight for Height uses a 56-pound weight with an attached handle. It’s thrown with, again, one hand over a horizontal bar. The bar is generally started at 10 feet and each athlete has three chances to make the height. The bar is continually raised until only one competitor makes it over. The current record is 18 feet 10 inches and is held by an amateur named Csaba Meszaros. (The games attract a wide assortment of participants, not necessarily from a Scottish background).

 

The iconic Caber Toss is the most well known of all the games and it actually has the least rules. The caber varies in length, weight, taper and balance which all effect the successful toss, but the object is to make the caber fully rotate once then land as closely as possible resembling the hands of a clock pointing to 12 from the throwers position.

 

Getting ready to pick up and balance the Caber.

We sampled the Haggis, (better than my Mother ever made), watched the sheep dogs do their thing with both sheep and ducks, listened to the various pipe bands, marveled at a Drum Major who looked more military than the soldiers attending the affair, laughed at the Haggis Throw, enjoyed the dancers whirling across the stage, looked up my clan (Campbell) and shouted out support for the athletes at the games.

The best Drum Major I’ve ever seen!

 

If you come from a Gaelic background, would like to be Scottish, enjoy watching amazing feats of athletic prowess or thrill to the sound of bagpipes swirling, then attend one of the many Highland Games that happen every year all over North America. You won’t regret it!

 

As I watched and marveled at the prowess of the athletes, and enjoyed some of my family’s culture, it occurred to me that many of you would be interested in these things.  Just as I write about the things I see and do in Mexico, I will do the same for B.C. Maybe it will prompt some of you to come and visit.

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?

The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men gang aft agley!

5 Apr

 

I’m sure most of you have heard this expression before. It originates from a poem by Robbie Burns, written in 1785 and basically translates in to, “the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” Well, I have to say that Richard and I have experienced this with a vengeance.

 

We spent last week preparing to head back to Canada. We packed up the last of our things, fueled up the Grummy, purchased those Mexican food items that we always like to take with us, said our goodbyes around one last campfire, then on Thursday morning we hit the road!

 

The vehicle on the right is Grummy, our home and original transport and the vehicle on the left, the Suzuki is what we drove home in!

We’d only just got up to speed on the highway when there came  a not very nice tinkling sound.  The last time this sound was heard, it took us 6 weeks to overcome the problem.

 

Now, I need to give you a little background here. Grummy was a potato chip delivery truck in her previous life and as such she was a motor conversion. The original owners, Frito Lay Inc. created hundreds of these vehicles. They were designed to carry large volumes of product that weighed very little and to do deliverys in cities, so lots of starts and stops, hence the attachment of an automatic transmission to the 4 cylinder Cummins diesel, which was originally built as a standard. This conversion necessitated a part called a flex plate that sits between the engine and transmission where the flywheel would normally have been.

 

Our second year on the road, we broke the flex plate. At first Richard didn’t know what the problem was and it took him nearly 2 weeks of taking various bits apart to discover what was wrong. Then once he’d uncovered the broken plate we figured no problem, we’ll just order up another one, find a mechanic to fix it and we’ll be on our way! HAH! Talk about naive! First off, no mechanic on Vancouver Island was interested in having anything to do with it, which meant whatever we did, Richard was going to have to do it all himself. Secondly, the flex plate was apparently a fairly rare beast.

 

Eventually we found a source for this unusual part, in Illinois, through a Cummins dealer in Brentwood Bay. The number was read off the old part, an order was put through and we were told, “a week”. A week went by and sure enough a package came, but it didn’t weigh enough. When it was opened, there was the toothed gear ring but not the plate that the gear was supposed to be attached to. Off it went back to the supplier, with a description and measurements of the actual part. “It’ll take a week,” we were told again. Sure enough a week later a bigger, heavier box arrived and….oh happy day, it WAS the right part!

 

But wait… something wasn’t quite right, the ring gear faced the wrong way and since it was welded to the plate it was no good to us. So off Richard went again to the Cummins dealer, where they decided that the plate had been welded wrong and would be shipped back. Another new one would be shipped out in its place and it would take another week!

 

The next week a box arrived and it too had a new flex plate in it and it too had a gear ring welded on backwards. Back to the Cummins dealer Richard went and this time the parts manager called the parts supplier and got the manager to go out to the warehouse and look at the parts. Lo and behold, they were all welded on backwards! CRAP! Okay time to step back and rethink the problem. We had a new flex plate but the gear ring was on backwards, so eventually it occurred to us to go to a machine shop, have the ring cut off, turned around and welded back the right way round. SUCCESS!

 

Another couple of weeks to put everything together and we were finally on the road and headed for Baja.

 

…and now, back to our most recent adventures!

 

After our initial, “What the hell was that?” Which is a game we seem to play every time the Grummy makes a previously unheard sound, Richard realized we had heard this one before. We stopped at the Mirador and Richard took a look, knowing full well what the problem was, then we immediately drove to Reuben Montoya’s shop, just before the airport road.

 

Reuben knew what it was too and spent the next 8 hours disassembling the transmission, pulling the old plate out, welding it back together, then reassembling everything.

At 4PM we were on our way again with fingers well and truly crossed. We made it to the last bridge before Loreto, when we either ran over some gravel that got tossed up into the engine compartment OR the plate was coming apart again, because we heard that familiar tinkling sound once more. We continued on till just north of town when, stressed to the max, we pulled over to the side of the road, drank a couple of beer and decided to spend the night and think about it before continuing on our journey.

 

After a virtually sleepless night, we decided that it would be stupid to continue on in a vehicle that we didn’t trust and if we broke down on the side of the road we were well and truly screwed! So we turned around and headed back to Juncalito, where for the first time we met Manuela and arrangements were made to park the van there for the time being, while we headed home in our tow car, a 1992 Suzuki Sidekick, that Richard had just rebuilt the motor in.

 

The idea was that we would get home quickly, find a new part, Richard would fly down with it, replace the unreliable one, then drive the Grummy back home since it really is our home. We grabbed as much stuff as we figured we’d need for the next couple of weeks, cleaned out all the perishable food and drove away.

 

Sounds great, what could possible go wrong?

 

It seems that when Richard, who speaks no Spanish, took the head in to get the rings redone, he asked them to replace the seals since one was leaking badly. And since none of them spoke any English, they didn’t understand him and put the old seals back in.

 

The first day was okay, till we stopped for gas and Richard checked the oil, there was none showing on the dip- stick. He put it down to the rings using up the measurable oil to seat themselves and poured in the 2 litres we had with us. Again we were off! We made Catavina, the first night! Suffice it to say that it wasn’t the nicest place to stay, the dog was totally freaked out and sleeping was a nice idea that never reached fruition.

 

We crossed the border the next night and by this point it was becoming clear we had a badly leaking valve and I was starting to hear tappet noise. Richard being pretty much deaf couldn’t hear it, but he would eventually! From that point on, every time we stopped for gas, we poured in at least 1 litre of oil and the tappet noise just kept getting louder.

 

That night was the worst because we didn’t know where we could go to spend the night. We’ve never travelled with a dog and we had never imagined a scenario that didn’t include sleeping in the Grummy. Thanks to a very nice man in a full up motel who told us about Motel 6 and a very helpful motorcycle cop who gave us detailed directions to the nearest one, we found a place to sleep,  not to mention shower and try to de-stress.

 

From that point on we drove hard and fast averaging 500 miles or 800 kilometres a day. We left Friday morning at 9:15 AM and arrived at our daughter’s house in Penticton at 6:30 PM on Tuesday, 4 nights and 5 days. It was sooo good to be home, safe and out of the car. The tappet noise was so loud by the time we got back that the Suzuki sounded like a diesel truck and I kept expecting the wheels to collapse and the engine to fall out as soon as we came to a full stop!

 

Our plans have changed as well and Grummy is going to stay in Baja for the foreseeable future. We’ll find the part,  take it with us when we return and fix Grummy but it’s starting to look like we’ll be commuting in something a little smaller and more cost effective. But just so you know, it won’t be a Suzuki Sidekick!

 

 

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!

It’s the crazy season!

30 Jun

Yes, I know I haven’t posted in a while. I’ve been busy. My Dad used to say, “that’s not an excuse”! No, it’s not, but it is an explanation.

We’ve been Grand parenting. Never heard of it? It’s what all retired folks with children do when their kids, have kids. It requires vast amounts of patience, good humour, and most importantly, poor hearing. Kids are noisy, no doubt about it. What do you think? Do we go deaf after years of listening to loud music, cars and kids, or is it a defence  specifically for older folks so they can continue to spend time with very small children? I’m going with the latter, never mind all the concerts I attended in my youth that were in excess of 100 decibels.

What’s that? Speak up I can’t hear you!!!!

It’s interesting, visiting only every 6 months with our daughters and their growing families. We get to watch the grandkids grow up literally by leaps and bounds, and we get to spend the summers with them, when there is always so many more things to do. Now, there is a down side to this, we miss things, like birthdays (at least we call), first steps, first teeth, but we hope the quality time we do spend with them more than makes up for it.

A June Baby! The one birthday we'll never miss!

One of our daughters and her husband, moved to Penticton, which is in the southern interior of the province in an area called the Okanagan. It’s a desert area that specializes in wine grapes, tree fruits and tourism, with high temperatures and low rainfall. My kind of place after living on Vancouver Island for 35 years. This is currently where we call home.

Now, don’t get me wrong, we love to visit our youngest daughter and her family on Vancouver Island, but she has her husbands Mom and Dad around a great deal of the time.  They help the kids out around their house, they babysit, give them advise, even take them on holiday, something Richard and I could never afford these days. So we visit, at least 2 or 3 times over the summer, but we don’t spend large amounts of time there as we feel they are being well looked after and we just kind of get in the way.

The other daughter only has one child, but her in-laws live a long ways away and her husband is estranged from them, so we feel we can be of more use here. That’s one of the reasons, that plus we just can’t afford to be going back and forth on the Ferries anymore, not when a one-way fare for us, Grummy and our car is almost $200.00. Not to mention that the average summertime temperature is around 25-28 c, while Victoria, on Vancouver Island is around 19-20 c and I like it warm!

So we stay in beautiful, sunny Penticton, a tourist destination.

This truly is a place that relies on tourists and to keep them and their dollars flowing, there is a festival of some sort or another every weekend. Not to mention that within 50 kilometres of Penticton are many more towns and cities that also offer tourist entertainment.

One of the many Kid's Festivals in the area.

It’s a grab bag of things you would like to do, with virtually something for everyone thrown into the mix. Like Elvis? There’s the Pacific Northwest Elvis Festival, where impersonators vie with each other for the title of Best in the World.

Interested in classic cars, then just for you we have the Peach City Beach Cruise, not to mention all of the other Show and Shines that take place in the area over the summer.

1 of more than 800 classic vehicles on the beach last weekend.

Want something for the kids to do? Then take them to the Kids Festival in either Penticton or Kelowna, or the Action Festival in Summerland.

Do you enjoy lifting weights and looking at ripped bodies? Come on over and see the Mr. and Ms. Muscle contest.

Are you a runner, biker, or swimmer? Maybe you’d enjoy seeing the Ironman Triathlon that Penticton has hosted since 1983.

There are rodeos, bike races, and festivals for just about anything you can think of, and some that would never occur to you. Most importantly though, there is something to do every weekend, even if it’s just going to the local Saturday Market.

And if you don’t want to do any of those things, there are the wineries, lots and lots of wineries, many of which are medal winners, whose products are sought after by those in the know. You could spend days just visiting and sampling, while enjoying the warm temperatures and beautiful scenery.

How about just hanging at the beach,  sailing, fishing, kayaking, or swimming? Did I forget to mention that there are more than 30 beaches in the Okanagan area from Osoyoos to Salmon Arm, with Okanagan Beach at the north end of Penticton, considered to be the very best?

We’ve been busy with both of our kids, helping with the chores on the Island when we first got back, then helping with the same things in Penticton. I’ve been back to the island, and stayed for 2 weeks helping my daughter while her husband was at a conference in the States, and just visiting.  We even managed to do a few touristy types things while I was there.

Feeling cold and wet? Depressed? A visit to Butterfly World in Brentwood Bay will cheer you right up!

Right now, we have the house to ourselves as the eldest and family have headed over to the island for a camping holiday!  Ah blissful quiet!!

Next week we are heading out on our own to see the Arlington Air show in Washington State, then it’s back to the Okanagan for a while. We’ll see the Island kids once we get back as they will be up this way for some holidays with my son-in-laws parents and if I know them, they be visiting some of the local wineries. I can hardly wait.

In the meantime, I’m cranking up the music,  pouring some great Pinot Grigio, and waiting for the cherries to come ripe.

Mmmmm!

God, come October, we’re really going to need a vacation!