Monday, June 27, 2011

Days 30 - 33 - Family and Friends

Catching up with this blog - a lot of time goes by when we're having a good time with people we haven't seen for a long time - in some cases 27 years!

We also managed to get in some time with in-laws of our kids.(well these ones were in Victoria but you get the picure)

 and see more of Vancouver  - including the post stanley-cup-riot walls of the Bay.

Driving around Vancouver brought back a ton of memories, even though the place has changed so much. I remembered a picnic here, a family outing there, days at the beach etc. All fun times.

The party with family on Friday was just wonderful. Of course it seemed like we had never gone away from these people - the same sense of humour, a shared ancestray - and they are all as loud as me.So to all those nursing instructors who said , "Miss Atherton, you'll have to keep your voice down", I now say, "Not my fault - it's in my genes!"

We spent a lot of time identifying people in photos, and locations ( "oh that was in Banff") and had some questions answered ( "so she was Granpa Kelly's sister?"), and added more mysteries to solve back in Ontario ("But why did they go to N.Dakota from Bracebridge?").  Also included were photos of my sibs from a trip to Van. in 1954/55.

The oldest family member is now 95, and she was full of stories for us - it was terrific. The party on Friday night was a ton of fun - and we're thinking about reunions for 2013 - pay attention siblings!

On Saturday we headed to Victoria to stay with a good friend for the weekend who has a spectacular view from her place! We parked the trailer in the local provincial park, and on Sunday, walked our way around the inner harbour, and bought some loverly sockeye for dinner. Finally the weather cooperated!

Today we'll check out the BC Museum which has a current exhibition on the early Emily Carr, plus the BC archives, so will try to look up some addresses etc. of old family homes.

Tomorrow, we are back on the road by ourselves in the tent-trailer. It has been wonderful to sleep in a regular bed, take a shower without worrying about what previous occupants did, and perhaps most importantly, head to the bathroom in the middle of the night without a flashlight and bear bells - but overall, we are eager to get back to the nest and start the trek home.

Catch you on the road!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Day 28 & 29 - Family memories in Vancouver

It's been a great family time re-connecting with aunts and cousins, and seeing photos from the 30's, 40's and 50's.

We have a much better handle now on my Kelly roots but there is a lot more to do - back in Ontario funnily enough.

Saw the house I moved to in 1956 - and the new family there let us walk through - it is the same! believe it or not, whoever has owned it over the years has left the wood inlay in the floors, the tiny cupboards in the kitchen and the cement retaining wall in the back yard. So not so nice for them, but great for me!

We've been moving around Vancouver looking for older homes that are at addresses remembered by various family members - and think we have a handle on the neighbourhood my mom grew up in - which is quite near to St. Pat's High School where she was one of the 1st graduates.

Had a great lunch with friend of Kate's who lives in the same neighbourhood  - crazy.

Now we're chceking in with more family over the next couple of days, there's a Kelly party on Friday night which should be a blast - and then on to Victoria.

Day 24-Day 27 - Weekend in the Okanagan

We left Creston On Friday am expecting to drive Highway # 3 along the bottom of BC.  To my surprise ( and I was driving) we found ourselves heading north (Hortense the GPS lady was not paying attention - or maybe that was me).

So instead of crossing the mountains at the Kootenay Pass we crossed Kootenay lake on the “longest free ferry ride in North America"

 This actually turned out well for us because the weather was so crappy, there had been snow in the upper passes.  And we got to see Nelson BC which seems to be beautiful if it had stopped raining. We said that a lot on that trip.

We arrived in Winfield BC ( ½ hour north of Kelowna) just in time for the sun to come out and to have the 1st of many great meals with my cousins. Mike (first cousin, son of my Mother’s brother, Pete) and Nancy have a beautiful log house built on a canyon wall with a garden that descends the slopes over two tiers

The weekend was spent laughing, drinking good Okanagan wine, touring vineyards and hiking the countryside with their Bouvier “Beau” in the lead. Mike brought out some old family photos and we got caught up.

Just above their home is the old Eldorado ranch, built by WAC Bennet’s son, which stretches for miles and is apparently the refuge of cowboys, escaped convicts and coyotes.

Today (June 20) is the ½ way mark of our journey. We have travelled over 9000 k and for 3 ½ weeks. We will go to Vancouver to see more cousins, hear more family stories and re-acquaint ourselves with Vancouver - last seen 27 years ago.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Day 23 - Oh Canada

Thank God for gun control or at least what we have here. The border guard told us that the local Idaho car dealer will throw in a free AK47 with every 2011 pickup purchase. As he says, This wasn't even considered odd!"

Back home or at least the western part and driving to Creston, BC where my Dad was born. The family story says that my Grandfather started the local Creston paper and lost it in a poker game - at which point he moved the family's house off the lot where the newspaper building stood.

We tracked down the local museum

and their wonderful archivist who introduced us to several years of back issues of the Creston Review, the first iteration of the newspaper where we learned what seems to be the true story  - that is that while the transfer of the newly formed paper to new owners was quite straightforward, my grandfather did have a somewhat checkered past with bills unpaid and suspect entrepreneurial attempts (he tried to sell 'public' water to thirsty women and children at a country fair).

It was a great time. Creston is an amazing fruit and vegetable growing centre and has been so since the earliest days. Grampa was also involved in trying to sell this land to immigrant farmers. It is also a haven for artists and again he was involved in the early days as part of the Creston Players.(you'll have to turn your computers!)

Thanks Creston - and tomorrow it's off to Winfield in the Okanagan.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Day 22 - Riding through Washington

Today we travelled from Fort Stevens State Park to Spokane - a 454 mile journey.
Long and pretty boring actually - and we have no pics.

But we ended at a nice motel with good burgers and a good Washington state wine -  a 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon - thank you Washington.

Day 21 - Back to Astoria - a bit of a throwback

Astoria has a special vibe - with references to so many disparate cultures including
·     * the 70’s hippie laid-back alternative lifestyle with vegetarian, yoga, and hemp influences
the navy , coast guard, and river pilot culture with buzzed hair cuts, and ‘keep America secure’ influences
·      * the Scandinavian, immigrant, socialist, fishing and sauna influences
·      * men of a certain age (ours) with white hair (usually long) with full beards - honestly, one wonders is there was a contest.
·      * old cars which have been kept in pristine condition because of the weather.

It has been fun to be a part of these cultures while here and today we continued our tour - with Paul as the tour guide (don’t pay him!).

We saw the Flavel House, the home of the first robber baron in Town, the town movie museum

 - as well as had more wonderful food at Scorcher’s bakery and lunch.

It’s been a blast but now we are moving on - and tomorrow we are heading to Spokane, from there to Creston to see some family history and then on to Winfield in the Okanagan.

Day 20 -- Portland Oregon - we followed the sun

Actually we couldn’t stand the rain one second longer and thought MAYBE there’s sun over those mountains - and so it was.

Portland is a great city and we only saw snippets of it.  Powell's Book Store ( the largest independent book store in the world - 4 floors and acres of books - you need a map - which they provide .

Then lunch at Fuller's diner- all-day breakfast to die for (again , this needs to be featured on the Food Network!) . Lovely wait person whose real life is as a writer (graduate of creative writing from UBC) and who has started an online magazine called Fthe - and which she describes as an alternate Cosmo. It will go live after the  16th

The Chinese Cultural Garden was next and a lovely docent provided the commentary

 that linked the Chines garden to social history - very interesting but we had to leave after an hour - she had a LOT to say.

Drove to Washington Park to the rose garden - beautiful. Portland has just completed its rose festival anc unfortunately the roses have not been in bloom to the extent that is usual but still lovely.

Back to Fort Stevens (about 2 hours away) and back to the gloomy weather - I guess this is par for the course for the west coast. We hope to head back into Astoria tomorrow.

We’re still having a good time!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Days 18 and 19 -

These were quieter days spent around the state park with some venturing off to Seaside to the south and back to Astoria.

Seaside is one of the first holiday towns, kind of like Sauble Beach on steroids. The water, and dunes are there along with some wonderful condominiums but there is also a promenade which extends right across the town in front of the ocean. Paul and I stopped there for an ice cream cone from the Tillamook ice cream store.

There are numerous parks along the ocean where one can spend the day, and in many cases you can take your car onto the beach although we have seen a few cars get stuck on the sand.

Last evening we had a great nature hike led by one of the park volunteers which turned into a private tour since we were the only ones who showed up - well along with the mosquitoes of course. We saw huckleberry (both regular and red), Oregon holly, lots and lots of ferns, wild roses, salal ( a type of local berry), thimbleberries, salmon berries and trailing black berries. But the stars of the tour were the sitka spruces  - “babies” Barney says - only 100 years old. They can grow to be 500 years old. The ones we saw seemed like monsters.

Today we returned to Astoria ( pronounced for some reason with the emphasis on the 1st syllable) for the Sunday market and lunch at the bow picker.

Apparently the latter is a local secret. The fish is albacore tuna caught just off shore and most Astorians get their lunch here. “Divers Drive-ins and Dives” needs to check this place out- it really was good!

We also got a better picture of the goonie house.

This afternoon we returned to the park for ranger-led presentation on a local shipwreck, the Peter Iredale

 One of 2000 major wrecks along this coast, it is testament to the extreme weather and seas when the Columbia river meets the Pacific ocean in a dance that is violent and unpredictable. Special river pilots are trained to take ships from one to the other  and these guys are treated with extreme respect.

There are a whole lot of folks in the park right now because of the razor clams - apparently if you go out at sunrise at the "Minus tide", these guys are there for the picking.

The crabbers are from Oregon and one family's eldest son (picture Mickey Rooney in a fu manchu moustache) brought us up to date with the latest techniques. It's also a lot of fun they say, but 5 am anywhere doesn't sound like fun to me - and on this rainy coast, less than that!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Day 17 - Driving the 101

In Oregon, there is a state highway which hugs the seaside called the 101. Amazing vistas plus a ton of fun to drive if you like hills, switchbacks and speeds that go from 20-50 mph constantly.

But when the driver is not in a hurry, the road is a fascinating glimpse into small town America - or at least small town Oregon - which I think might be different from other places. Are there other states where you can buy your guns at the same place as you buy your guitars?

We drove to Newport to check out the aquarium  - a mid-sized facility with one of those "deep passages" tunnels where the fish swim over and under you. This would have been more amazing if not every child in Lincoln County wasn't visiting the aquarium that day.

Back to the State Park, we found that we had numerous neighbours for the weekend mostly human. The wildlife neighbour from the night before - the raccoon who nearly climbed into the van - had vanished with the crowds.

But the noisiest were the owls - screech? barn? great horned? who knows  - just REALLY LOUD! Will ask a ranger tonight.

So I guess Paul was right. Owls, not dinosaurs!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Day 16 - Astoria, Oregon - a gem of a town

A great night’s sleep (well except for the dinosaurs howling around 1:00 am - Paul says they were owls but really do owls sound like dinosaurs?). The temperature was cool enough to keep the mosquitos down but warm enough to not freeze - a good thing.

We also found that Oregonians are good coffee lovers and there are drive-thru expresso bars everywhere in little Astoria including the internet kafé across from the park (you guessed it - run by the local KOA - these folks don’t miss a trick).

The park is actually about 20 minutes from Astoria. Before hitting the kafe, we decided to drive through the park on an orientation tour and saw this other park occupant.

We also had our first view of the pacific ocean

 and while there were no whale sightings today, we remain hopeful.

Once in Astoria, we found several options for sightseeing so settled today for the River Road trolley

 a wonderful deal for $1.00 for an hour tour. ( for $2 you can stay on all day!) You stand anywhere on he trolley line waving your buck , and they’ll pick you up. A local historian dressed liked a motorman gives a running commentary on the history of this oldest settlement west of the Mississippi. While not the actual setting for Steinbeck’s ”Cannery Row” , it seems like it could have easily stood in for it.

It has though been the setting for several movies especially “Goonies” and “Kindergarten Cop”. The trolley historian pointed out the “Goonie” house from the film 

and encouraged us the visit Astoria’s film museum in the town’ former jail . We saw sea lions (which apparently drive the locals crazy with their barking) and more azaleas & rhododendrons  than any one town should be able to support. We also saw this tree?bush?  with blue flowers

. I leave it to you to determine its name.

We will drive down the coast tomorrow to Newport to see the aquarium - apparently something not to miss. We’ll keep this campsite for the rest of our time in Oregon as a base from which to do more day trips.

It’s so nice to come home to ;-)

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Days 14 and 15 - From “Best Western” to the best of the west-

We’ve managed to experience the best of both worlds in the last couple of days. Arriving at Best Western Sundridge Inn Baker City after outrunning the tornado we found great rooms, a good pub, beautiful gardens and a low price - amazing.

The next day we visited the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center which highlights the trials on the trail in fabulous dioramas with voice-over excerpts from emigrant diaries. We have been looking forward to this center and it did not disappoint. Also it was basically free since we purchased an annual pass for all national sites in Yellowstone.

The views from the center, which is perched on top of a local hill,

 are astounding even in the poorer weather. And we saw the trail as it exists today - still showing the paths and ruts from 150 years ago.

Oregon is awash in azaleas, rhododendrons, lilacs and flowering crab trees. The wildflowers are just as beautiful. As we travelled towards the coast, we started seeing a yellow flowering bush on most rocky mountain sides and roadsides. I believe it is the wild flower “broom ( check reference) which grew wild around our home in Vancouver. It was always one of my mother’s favourite flowers and as a kid there were many bouquets delivered from the vacant and building lots around our place. It was wonderful to see it again.

We arrived in Fort Stevens State Park on the tip top north west coast of Oregon around 4:00 pm after an 8 hour drive .  While not the most stunning vistas we did see this dog, 

who was travelling in the back of a pickup doing bout 100 kph running from side to side of the pickup with the wind blowing his hair tight against his face. His owner was pulling an even larger trailer with a saddled horse in it. I guess he and the dog and the horse were going somewhere to do cowboy things. Paul was very impressed.

We also had our first sights of the Columbia river and that was great.

Arriving finally at the park, we were tired and cranky but quickly revived when we saw this amazing campsite.

Finally we’re camping not “kamping”.

We had another great dinner with ingredients from the local food coop we found in Baker City (see reference) - local naturally raised beef in our spaghetti sauce made from the garden last year (we brought several cans to use up on the trip), plus local asparagus and greens for a salad. We also cooked some rice to have tomorrow night with local seafood and the rest of the asparagus in a stirfry.

This park is dedicated to civil war history, as well as hiking , biking, ocean kayaking (F&J take note), fishing etc. There is an old war lookout tower from which one can see whales apparently - we’ll let you know if we get lucky!

We heard about the park from other kampers at the last KOA  and this is one of the perks of living cheek by jowl in these places - if you have good neighbours, you can learn a ton about the best places to visit. Another kamper introduced us to the huckleberry and honey wine sold at Yellowstone - not something I’d want again but an interesting first. We actually managed to get a good bottle of Beringer Estate Collection Cab Sauve for $8 at a local liquor store so were quite happy to give up the huckleberry mead for it.

Tomorrow we explore the park.  We may be out of range of phones for a bit but will post the blog in the local internet café every so often.