Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Westfield to West 7th

After a lovely week in Sidney, I drove up the Island to Cumberland about an hour north of Nanaimo. I spent two days there visiting with my nephew Jeff and his partner Ivy. I also had a dinner and a visit with my nephew Mike. These young men (well, maybe not so young anymore) are the sons of my sister Nancy. Jeff and Ivy took me to Quadra Island and that meant going to Campbell River to catch the ferry. I had never been to this part of the island or to Quadra before. They also toured me around Comox and Courtney.

I left Vancouver Island on Wednesday via the ferry from Nanaimo to Horseshoe Bay and arrived at Heather’s just after supper. I’ve now been here for one full week. I spent Thursday afternoon with my niece Tara, touring around Vancouver and lingering over a nice lunch at the Boathouse on English Bay.

Friday night I had dinner at my friend Tricia’s in Yaletown. I spent Saturday afternoon with an old school friend, Becki , wandering the streets of Kitsalano. Becki divides her time these days between Vancouver and Westfield, NB. The last time I saw Becki was in Westfield in September just before I embarked on the US part of my trip. Becki lives on West 7th St. hence the title of this blog.

Sunday Heather and I went to Half Moon Bay on the Sunshine Coast to visit Jerry and Bette. This entailed another ferry ride through spectacular scenery. We stopped in Gibson’s to poke in an antique shop and then headed up the coast to Half Moon Bay. It was a lovely sunny day and we ate lunch on the deck overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Yesterday Heather and I drove to Whistler to check out the preparations for the 2010 Olympics. (Somebody has to supevise this job!) We had a great lunch at the Beet Root café and then headed back to the city.

Today I will pack up the van for the final leg of this trip. And tonight I am meeting Jerry and Bette and their daughter Ali for supper.

I’m a bit nervous about driving through the mountains this time of year although I’ve been told that the roads are fine. Soon this trip will be over and while I’m anxious to get home, there is a certain sadness about ending this grand adventure.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Victoria and Sidney

I have been at Patricia's for almost a week. It has been a lovely week even though the weather has been a bit wet.

Patricia and I are having a lovely visit. We figured out that we’ve been friends for 33 years – ever since we met when we both worked at CFAC TV in the 1970s. Patricia’s home is a welcoming place to rest and relax before heading eastward through the mountains. A couple of days ago we decided to spend the day on Salt Spring Island. We took the Roadtrek. What a change since I first spent the summer on the island in 1983. We took Patricia’s dog Libby along with us and she did her share of the driving, too.

Patricia and I have also spent some time poking in the little shops in Sidney. The other day we went into a little antique shop and I found the perfect open salts. I had looked in antique stores throughout my trip and here they were in Canada all along. So I will end my trip with a lovely reminder of Vancouver Island: open salts with silver spoons.

I have finally managed to get in touch with my nephews Jeff and Mike who both live in Namaimo (about two hours away) and I will head up there tomorrow afternoon after have lengthy coffee and catch up chat with one of the women I used to work with at EPCOR in Edmonton. After Namaimo, it’s on to Vancouver for some visiting there.

The mountain roads still aren’t conducive to driving with the Roadtrek so I’m not certain how long before I can make that drive. It was still snowing in Calgary today!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

O Canada!

There is something magic about crossing the border and arriving back in Canada. Somehow it feels different here. I can feel a little tingle in my stomach as I let it sink in that there is only a mountain range between me and my home. After almost 35,000 kms, the drive through the mountains doesn’t seem like much – except that it’s still too cold and snowy to make the trip. Meanwhile, it’s only cool and rainy on the west coast. There are friends to reconnect with, nephews and a niece to visit. I should be in my Calgary home in a couple of weeks.

I drove from Lincoln City, OR to Port Angeles, WA the day before last. I figured that I could make the 4 pm ferry from Port Angeles to Victoria – alas, I arrived at the ferry dock to discover that the 4 pm ferry actually left from Victoria and the next one to Victoria was at 8:20 am the next day. So I gassed up, had an early, tasty supper at a south Asian restaurant and headed for the KOA campground just outside town.

Yesterday I caught the ferry, received a much appreciated “Welcome back” from the customs agent once she discovered that I hadn’t overspent and I headed for Fort Street or Antiques Row as it’s known locally.

My friend Patricia in Sidney was working until 3pm but had thoughtfully hidden a key for me so I let myself in, made a cup of tea and awaited her return. Patricia has a lovely new border collie named Libby so the first order of business when Patricia returned was to take Libby for a good walk.

Patricia and some of her cousins have a weekly family dinner and last night’s dinner was on her cousin Alan’s 53 foot boat. Her cousin and his wife Toddy run whale and wildlife watching tours out of Uclulet on Vancouver Island’s coast and live full time on their boat. It was docked in Canoe Cove so they could do their yearly maintenance. It is a gorgeous ship and we all had great fun fuelled by oysters, pasta and red wine.

Patricia is working again today so I’m catching up – laundry, calls to friends on the island to find convenient visiting times, shopping for groceries for Patricia’s and my dinner tonight, walking Libby.

Ahh, Canadian soil, a good friend and a canine companion – today is going to be a stellar day!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Wind and Rain in Oregon

Today, I am held hostage in Lincoln City by a coastal storm: winds, 70 mph winds and big surf. The winds came up overnight and my little van rocked in the wind and rain. I checked the weather on the internet to find storm warnings with gusty winds and continuing rain so I decided it would be a good day to go antiquing in Lincoln City and leave the coastal drive until tomorrow.

I was in Lincoln City about 23 years ago when it was really just a widening in the road. What I remember most about it is that there were many people on the beach flying kites. This time there are oceanside condos and inns, a Tanger Outlet Mall and a six cinema theatre. And, my favourite: lots of antique shops. So I’ve been antiquing, searching through the beautiful clutter of antique malls and shops for “treasure”. Today I was also looking for a sugar bowl, Johnson Brothers’ Athena pattern for Leslie as hers has broken. It was fun to have something to hunt for even if the hunt was unsuccessful.

Yesterday I stopped in Newport at an antique mall and found a bargain: a nice pinwheel crystal footed bowl for $7.50! There was an almost identical bowl in another booth for $65. As I paid for it, the woman working the cash expressed her surprise at the price and then told me that the people who own that booth usually sell primitives and must have been trying just to move this piece on. She also said they had just brought it in the day before. For me, this is the thrill of antiquing: finding something beautiful at a bargain price.

As you can see from the photos, I also went to the beach today. The wind-whipped ocean is also a beautiful treasure. If fact, if I had to make a choice between the antique malls and the beach after a storm, I’d pick the beach every time. It has also become clear to me that if I’m going to become a snowbird at some point, I will need a place near the ocean. I think it’s time to start singing “California Here I Come”.

Saturday, March 14, 2009


Thursday I left Bodega Bay and headed for the 101. I spent the day driving through wine country: acres and acres of vineyards through the valleys of Sonoma County. The vineyards with their lovely geometric precision laced the valleys and stretched up the hillsides. There were tangles of wildflowers along the roadside and where ever there was vacant land. The cherry and apple trees were in blossom. It was a glorious and leisurely drive.

Towards mid-afternoon I entered the redwood forests. I stopped in Leggat where someone had cut a hole (big enough to drive a car through) in one of the trees. And just past Leggat, I stopped for the night at Redwoods RV Park. Like its name says, this campground is in the redwood forest. It was damp there like most old growth forests are and air was heavy with the earthy scent of lush vegetation. The Eel River tumbled through a canyon just behind my campsite.

Yesterday I followed 101 up along the coast reading signs warning of Tsumani danger. I stopped for lunch at a beach where signs warned you not to get too close to the water as “sneaker” waves were common there and would come up on shore and wash you into the ocean. I had never heard the term sneaker wave but I was certainly familiar with the concept. When I was growing up in the Maritimes, we called them rogue waves.

I stopped again in Crescent City where I poked in a couple of antique shops and picked up some groceries. Then it was back on the 101 and into Oregon. I’m camped at the Turtle Creek RV Park and Campground – and I’m within walking distance of the beach. I had a lovely beach walk before supper and then settled in for the night.

Today I will continue along the Oregon coast where giant pieces of rock tumbled into the ocean centuries ago. In a few days, I will be back in Canada.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Big Sur

After two full days of driving on all the twists and turns of the California coastline, I’m feeling a bit woozy! On Tuesday I drove from Cambria to end the day at a small place called Felton just north of Santa Cruz. I drove on the stretch of coast known as the Big Sur and it was, if possible, more spectacularly beautiful than I could have imagined. It makes one stretch for superlatives – and not find one that can capture what the eye sees.

I drove slowly. There is no other way you can drive this twisting stretch of coast – signs announcing 15 miles an hour with scary looking curves are posted regularly. I stopped in Carmel-by-Sea and poked in the shops and soaked up the atmosphere. I treated myself to a nice lunch at a little café. I ate gnocchi with a pesto sauce created especially for me! The gnocchi came with a gorgonzola cheese sauce which I thought would be too strong a taste. My server disappeared and came back to say the chef would be happy to make me a pesto sauce. It was the best gnocchi and pesto I’ve eaten since I used to eat it with my eldest daughter at John’s in Toronto.

On Wednesday, I drove right through San Francisco sticking to route 101 along Van Ness past the gilded City Hall and eventually across the Golden Gate Bridge. Is there a city prettier than San Francisco? I could have stayed there but I have visited it before and will again so I contented myself with driving through. As I entered Sausalito, I immediately headed back to coast and ended the day in Bodega Bay, on the Sonoma coast.

This morning I have cleaned up the van – with all the twisting and turning even my carefully stowed gear had shifted – and done some laundry. I will be leaving here shortly and will head inland and up the 101. I need a break from 15 mile an hour signs and I want to pick up the pace of my journey back home.

Monday, March 9, 2009

A very full day

Yesterday was as busy a day as I’ve had on this trip. Or maybe it just seemed like that because I lost an hour’s sleep with the switch to daylight savings time. In any event I left the gorgeous Morro Bay and headed to San Simeon and the Hearst Castle. And what a castle it was. William Randolph Hearst began building his architectural tour de force when he was 56. By then he had been collecting major art and antiquities for decades and they all found a place in his hilltop home. He collected ornate ceilings from Spain and Italy and had them installed at his “ranch” as he called it. There is statuary that dates back to 47 BC and he amassed a huge collection of religious paintings and artifacts – not so much because he was a religious man (he wasn’t) but because the Roman Catholic church supported so many artists and artisans and that’s the type of art that was available to buy.

The magnitude of this building project is impressive. Hearst continued changing and building it for 28 years until his death at 88. Julia Morgan, an American who was the first woman to graduate from a prestigious architectural school in France, was Hearst’s building partner. Morgan brought to life Hearst’s dream and found a place for his large collections and treasures.

I went on two guided tours, one at 11 another at 2 and also watched an Imax movie about the building of Hearst Castle and the rich and famous people who visited there.

The ranch (at one time it consisted of approximately 250,000 acres and included 80 miles of California coastline) still operates today and is run by the Hearst Corporation.

The coastline in this part of California reminds me of New Zealand landscape, rounded, lush green hills, gorgeous coastline, even the same type of rock poking through the green from time to time. All that is missing are the sheep. Here herds of cattle rather than sheep occupy the landscape. Later I read that, like New Zealand, the landscape here has been formed by ancient volcanic activity.

By 4:30, at the end of the second tour, I was exhausted and headed back south a few miles to San Simeon State Park to spend the night. As I was backing into my camping spot, a man from the next campsite yelled out that I was about to hit the bottom on the van on back concrete curb. In the end I settled on the campsite just below him (the first one was too slanted) and went back to say “thank you” as I had noticed he had an Alberta license plate. It turns out that he is a transplanted Aussie who lives in Drumheller. Later in the evening, he (Paul) came over to invite me to join him and his friends Larry and Larry’s wife Pat for fresh fish and mussels that Larry had caught earlier in the day. So I joined an impromptu California dinner party!

Today I am going to check out the nearby town of Cambria as all three of my dinner mates say it is not to be missed and I will spend another night here tonight. When I’m in Cambria, I will find a WiFi site and post this.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Driving up the edge

I’m camped tonight at Leo Carrillo State Park between Santa Monica and Ventura. As I drove up the coast today, I passed through a myriad of places whose names I had only heard: La Jolla, Oceanside, San Clemente. Then came the beaches: Laguna Beach, Newport Beach, Huntington Beach, Long Beach.

I stayed on the Hwy 1 and drove right by Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), a big refinery and the harbor docks. Then came Santa Monica and I crossed Sunset Boulevard. I wondered if it was THE Sunset Boulevard and, sure enough, when I checked my map a few minutes ago it does run right into Hollywood. If I had known that for sure at the time, I might have made that right turn and driven into make believe land! However, my intention all along had been to avoid LA on this trip and I’m sticking to plan. LA is worth a whole trip on its own at some point.

After Santa Monica I drove through Malibu and stopped there to pick up some groceries. You don’t really see much of Malibu when you drive through – the mansions are gated and hidden with vegetation and the beach houses sit side-by-side with only garages visible from the highway.

It is windy and cool here tonight although there are lots of hardy campers - mostly in tents and a good number of them have surf boards or kayaks with them. There were a group of tenters with a large Alumni Reunion sign so I moved to the other side of the park and found a spot between three families with young children. I'm sure they won't be partying all night!

This is the second time this week that I’ve stayed in a place with no radio or TV reception and no WiFi access. I’ll have to post this later.

Saturday, 3:10 pm

I’m now camped at Morro Bay about an hour from San Simeon. Today I drove mostly on highway 101 which goes along the coast and then inland for a bit. I passed through more of those familiar names: Santa Barbara, Santa Maria, Pismo Beach. I stopped in Pismo Beach, a beautiful little beach town that also had an outlet mall. Sandra would be proud of me – I actually found a bargain: a lovely Izod hoody for $9.99 which I really did need! I’m about to head to the beach which is only a short walk from my campsite and it’s windy so the hoody will get its first test.

I just made reservations for two different tours of the Hearst Castle in San Simeon tomorrow. Life on the road goes on…

Thursday, March 5, 2009

San Diego

I’m still in San Diego – it is lovely here. Yesterday I took an Old Town Trolley tour of the city. The tour is a two-hour, narrated drive to major points of interest. What I really like about these tours is that you can get off and back on at different spots along the way. I got off at Seaport Village, an area on the waterfront that has a lovely boardwalk, one of kind shops and restaurants. The tour starts in the old town section of the city and I poked in the shops there when we got back. San Diego is only eight miles from the Mexican border so many of the shops were filled with bright colours and inexpensive goods of Mexico. I had an early supper on the deck of one of the owner-operated restaurants before heading back to the campground. No national chains in this part of town!

Today I’m tired after all the walking and I’m going to extend my stay at this campground for another night. I have “travelling chores” to do: get the propane and gas tanks filled, dump the waste tanks and fill the water tank with fresh water, find a car wash and wash the van, check the tire pressure, etc. That way I’ll be ready to leave tomorrow. It’s raining farther up the coast and I’m not in any rush to trade this sun for rain even though the thought of returning home is pulling me northward.

This morning I checked the internet for vacation apartment/condo listings and finding a place to spend the winter here would be doable. And there is so much to see and do in San Diego. But then, again, who knows lies farther up the coast…. I guess I’ll find out starting tomorrow.