Wednesday, October 11, 2023

From Twin Peaks to the Great White North, Part 3

Friday, October 6, 2023: Sky High in Vancouver
There must have been some snafus onboard the Ovation this morning as passengers prepared to disembark because the assigned exit times for each group — ours was 8:20 a.m. — kept getting pushed farther and farther back. After a 45-minute delay, we finally received the green light to get out of Dodge, so out of Dodge we went... and then we got back into another Dodge because the rental car Terry so kindly picked up for us was a Dodge Durango. It took some doing to get all our crap into the back of that vehicle, but Terry managed it. By then, the Great Starvation was upon us, and so we drove into Vancouver to find something for breakfast. Ms. B. found a few promising-looking locations online, but when we got there, all of them had lines out the door. So fuck that, we all said, and plopped ourselves down at a nearby Tim Hortons, which actually turned out to be pretty good.

It didn't take long to discover that traffic in Vancouver is a nightmare, as it took about twice the time we anticipated to reach our destination for the day, the Capilano Suspension Bridge, which crosses the Capilano River north of Vancouver. The bridge is over 200 feet high and spans a gorge almost a tenth of a mile wide. There's also a tree canopy walk and a cliff walk through the lush rainforest around the bridge. All of these attractions might be challenging for anyone who suffers from acrophobia, not just because they're way up high but because the walkways — the bridge and the tree canopy walk, at least — sway precariously.

Rather to our dismay, there was a huge crowd today, which meant the bridge and walkways were choked with people. We'd kind of hoped we might challenge the heights in a somewhat more serene environment. Regardless, we enjoyed the hell out of the experience. The forested landscape there is truly beautiful. I wasn't sure how well I'd take to the heights, but as it turned out, they didn't bother me at all. Both Beth and I made a point to cross the sometimes dizzily swaying bridge without so much as touching the handrails. And we did! One of the coolest things about the place was that it was loaded with Halloween horrors: skeletons, pumpkinheads, spiders, bats, rats... all kinds of cool, creepy things. Apparently, they know how to do Halloween right up here.

There was some very good (very expensive) food and drink to be found at the Cliff House Restaurant & Bar at the facility; pulled pork for all of us, which we found delicious, if distinctly different from the NC-style BBQ we're accustomed to back home. Apparently, the fries weren't bad either, as I couldn't stop eating them.

Did I mention crowds? Holy fucking shit, Vancouver is a raging, boiling cauldron of too-many-motherfucking people. New York, Chicago, Seattle, Boston, Atlanta... no city I've ever spent time in compares to the crushing crowds we met everywhere we went. By late afternoon, the roads were at a standstill, and we weren't sure we were ever going to make it to our lodgings, much less find a place to procure supplies. I've never seen so many cars trying to jam themselves into a gas station in my life. Hundreds of them. The Costco and Walmart, less than five miles from our place, took 45 minutes to reach, and then... horrors...! We discovered that in Canada you can't buy spirits of any sort at regular grocery stores. You've gotta go to a liquor store, even for wine and beer. Oh, the poor Canadians. And for us, another blasted battle with traffic.

I found a couple of caches, at least.

Anyway, it was a day. A generally awesome day, at that. Except for the too-many-motherfucking-people part. Judas H. Priest.

Saturday, October 7, 2023: Sky Higher in Whistler

I woke up pretty early and set right to work taking care of a bunch of Deathrealm business, as the release date is getting closer and closer (October 17). About 11:00 a.m., we dragged enough of our gear to last us overnight and hit the road for Whistler, a resort community supposedly about an hour and a half from Vancouver.

Haha. This is Vancouver. After an hour and a half, we hadn't even gotten clear of the city. Traffic was at a standstill everywhere, all morning. Canada's Thanksgiving Holiday is Monday, and it seems we've stumbled into the worst ongoing traffic snarls I've encountered in my lifetime. And I used to live in Chicago! Eventually, we hit something akin to open road (for a few minutes) and found a place for lunch on the city's northern outskirts: Mega Sushi, which was as tiny a place as tiny can be, but the food turned out to be pretty good.

Our primary target was the Sea-to-Sky Gondola, a mile-long, almost mile-high ascent into the mountains overlooking the Howe Sound. We'd anticipated being there by noon, but it was around 2:30 p.m. when we finally pulled in. Happily, things were moving along quickly, and our gang mounted up on one of the gondolas in fairly short order, bound for the sky. I'll tell you, the little cars zip up the cable at a good clip, and if you suffer from any degree of acrophobia, it might give you a jolt. The mountainside is steep, the gondola cars small and wobbly. Ms. B. rarely has any problem with heights, but she was squirming and averting her eyes from the outside world for most of the way up (see the photo above). I felt a wee bit of vertigo, but the ride didn't cause me any real discomfort. The views were beyond spectacular.

At the top, there's a gift shop, a slew of overlooks, a suspension bridge, a few trails, a bar, and geocaches. Needless to say, the latter two occupied most of my time up there. The suspension bridge was cool; not as high or long as the Capilano bridge, which we visited yesterday, but it's narrower and possibly shakier, and the gorge below is no less steep. I found a couple of caches and had a fine Bloody Mary before we made the descent back to our vehicle.

Once in Whistler, it was dinnertime, so we found it at Beacon Pub & Eatery. Fair-to-middlin' chicken wings and an Aperol Spritz. Our residence for the evening was the Aava Hotel, which was decent-looking and comfortable enough. Our gang of four sat up in a little lounge near the hotel lobby, drank some wine, and shot some shit. Since our collective batteries were beginning to run low, we retired fairly early.

Some of the views from the gondola...

Sunday, October 8, 2023: Brandywine and Shannon Falls
I woke up pretty early, so I headed out from the hotel and found a handful of geocaches around the Whistler's main commercial center. We regrouped around 10:30 a.m. for a fairly hefty brunch at Stone's Edge Kitchen in the nearby Adara Hotel. Decent food, though service was very slow, despite a small crowd — initially at least. By the time we left, business was beginning to pick up.

We had a much easier drive out of Whistler than we had coming in. Our first stop was Brandywine Falls, a not-at-all tiny trickle of water from a fairly lofty precipice. There was a huge crowd, enough so that there wasn't any parking left; we had to wait for a spell before one opened up. After a fifteen-minute walk on a fairly easy trail, we came to a few overlooks and took plenty of photos. I sought one cache but couldn't turn it up. The bugger may or may not still be there, as it was found the other day, but the empty location appeared consistent with the cache description. Alas!

Then we meandered to Shannon Falls, and this one is truly spectacular (that's it in the above-left photo). It's certainly the highest waterfall I've ever seen up close and personal, even higher than the highest waterfall Brugger and I visited in Michigan's Upper Peninsula (Douglass Houghton Falls). The water cascades down several tiers from a height of over a thousand feet. Again, we took pictures aplenty, and this time I found the geocache I sought — yay! Again, there was a massive crowd here, but we had marginally less trouble getting in and out of the park.

A few slow-downs on our way back to Vancouver, but nothing like the garbage heap we were stuck in yesterday. We stopped for a late lunch/early dinner at Medley's Italian & Grill in North Vancouver. Good food, good wine, good service. Ms. B. and I both had Basil Pesto & Linguine; she got grilled chicken on hers, while I decided to skip the protein because I've had no shortage of it on this trip.

At last, back at our lodgings in Langley, where a quiet and mellow evening was just the ticket. There's a couple of days left on this almost three-week-long sojourn, both of which are going to be kind of batshit crazy. I must say, I'm about ready to settle back into my regular home routine at Ground Zero — although I've got a booksigning in Williamsburg next weekend. Go, go, go, old man.
Old dude and Ms. B. at Brandywine Falls
Martian heat ray streaking down from the sky above Brandywine Falls
Along the trail to Shannon Falls
L: Coupla youngsters at Shannon Falls; R: Okay, maybe not so young. Getting up there was tough!

Monday, October 9, 2023: Where the Fuckowee?

The things some folks will do for wine. Mercy!

During this trip, our gang has acquired a few bottles of wine to take home — "a few" meaning a case for each couple. However, you can't transport that much wine across the Canadian border, so our host from the Seattle-area Air B&B, where we stayed last week, was kind enough to hold it for us. Our flight back home goes from Vancouver to Seattle, then Seattle to Raleigh-Durham. Since we have such an early morning flight out, we felt it most prudent to go back to Seattle — today — to store the wine much nearer to SeaTac and then pick it up during our five-hour layover in Seattle on tomorrow. (If you're following all this, you may be doing better than I am.)

So, that is what we did. Today, we drove down to our former Air B&B, north of Seattle, where we picked up the cases from our exceptionally kind host. Since we were now back in wine country, we figured we'd try a few more tasting rooms in Woodinville. Once again, we had lunch at the Hollywood Tavern, which we'd discovered on our first visit here, and then set about our final wine-tasting venture for this big honking trip.

We found wine, and it was good.

Terry had arranged a place to store the wine cases very near SeaTac, so we trucked down there, found the location... which initially struck us as pretty weird because it was an Ethiopian restaurant. However, the storage service Terry chose — Bounce — has been reliable for us before, and the way it works is that it's a side business for many. Trusting that we were doing the right thing, we left the wine there. Then we drove the two and a half hours back to Vancouver. Packed up. Hit the sack early, since we had to leave to Vancouver airport by 6:00 a.m. the next morning. To fly back to Seattle. And, finally, home.


Tuesday, October 10, 2023: Take the Long Way Home
The reason we were flying out of Vancouver instead of simply leaving from Seattle was entirely due to the airlines' convoluted rules that make it cheaper to do a LOT of flying rather than a little. At the end of the day, we saved hundreds of dollars by making that extra trip from Vancouver to Seattle and back to Vancouver only to fly from Vancouver to Seattle the next before heading home. Got all that?

Up at 5:00 a.m. and out the door at 6:00. An hour's drive to YVR. Terry returns rental vehicle. We regroup, board plane, which takes off right on schedule. A quick, 30-minute flight to SeaTac, and... wow... déjà vu. Weren't we just here?

The last-leg-of-the-trip blues

Now, Terry and I find a taxi and ride over to the nearby Ethiopian restaurant. And... yay! All is well. We pick up our two cases of wine, return to the airport, check the cases, and... four more hours of layover. Much to my delight, I discovered there were a couple of Adventure Lab caches inside the airport to both occupy my time and put in some mileage on my feet (turned out to be about two miles total). We found a decent lunch, and — after three gate changes — found our plane. We boarded and took to the skies right on time.

Not a bad flight. Arrival at RDU right on schedule. Holy crap — at baggage claim, who should I run into but a geocacher of my acquaintaince from the Raleigh-Durham area. Turns out she and her husband were sitting right in front of us on the flight. She'd seen me at SeaTac, but our paths hadn't crossed until now. Anyhoo, our gang picked up our mountain of luggage, Terry took a taxi to his vehicle, parked just off the airport property, returned to pick us up, and... finally... off we headed to their home in Kernersville, just over an hour's trip.

It was about 1:30 a.m. when we reached their place, where we'd left our car. Kimberly and I transferred our bags to our vehicle and hit the road for Martinsville, an hour further on.

We walked... or more like stumbled... through our door at 2:45 a.m. to great fanfare by four cats. What excitement! Hollering, nuzzling, circling, jumping, & leaping. The cats were pretty happy too.

Lights out and collapse.


This trip was an experience unlike any other for all of us, I think. From our several past ventures, Terry & Beth and Kimberly & I figure that we travel pretty damned well together. We know each others' quirks and idiosyncracies (of which there are many), and most of the time, we don't really want to off each other and feed the corpses to the fishies. Can't say that about many people.

Haha. Sort of.

I've never been comfortable leaving home for too long a spell, and this was the single longest trip I've ever taken. Thus, I can't say that Kimberly and I didn't stress a bit, especially since we're so recently settled in Martinsville, and the cats have never been under someone else's care for so long. Happily, all has ended up pretty damned well.

We got to see so many things I don't often see in Martinsville. Arctic Ground Squirrels! Whales! Rattlesnake! Moose! Bear! Kyle MacLachlan! We saw the Pacific Northwest. We saw Canada. We saw Alaska. We went to many utterly gorgeous, very high places that challenged whatever acrophobia any of us might suffer. We discovered wine. Our cruise allowed us to view spectacular landscapes and seascapes the likes of which many people never get to see. And there were geocaches!

There is a lot of catch-up to play at this point. The real world beckons again.

So... here's to our next little break from it....

1 comment:

Beth said...

Already looking forward to next time but I will be needing a month long nap first.
Love you guys!