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.
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.
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.
|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|
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....