This last week and a half allowed us to see some amazing scenery while on the road. Oddly, much of the time we were faced with patchy 3G and poor WiFi on all of our family phones. When even Instagram was failing all the time (losing connection part way through the upload), and I was excited to see two bars on my phone (one seemed to be the norm), I knew that there was no way putting up a blog post would work. So now, sitting at home with a good Internet connection, I can finally share iPhone pics from the road.
My husband and I have been on a bit of a quest lately, and it has taken us to some spots of extreme beauty. Sunday’s adventure took us to the west country of Alberta. Away from the urban areas, tourists, and crowds there is a whole different Alberta of unspoiled natural beauty. If you are willing to venture down gravel roads and out of cell phone range you will see even more wonders.
The roads might not be fast, but you wouldn’t want them to be. This is a place to drive slow and take in the sparkling fall leaves, mountains in the distance, and the odd river and wetland.
The highlight for the family were the wild horses. A treat to see, but they were gone in a flash with no chance for a picture.
Eventually we ran out of light making it time to return home, but it has left us plotting our next journey into the lesser visited areas of the mountains of Alberta.
Photography by Debra Hunter
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It feels like posting on my blogs has slipped by the wayside as of recent. It isn’t due to lack of things to share, but rather that we have been on the go constantly. Life has been non-stop.
Some people enjoy leisurely long weekends, kicking back, hanging out, chilling. We don’t do that……ever (seriously). Generally long weekends leave us needing another long weekend to recover. So I thought I would share our blur of a long weekend.
The coast was calling us. We had itchy feet and fancied a road trip of a leisurely drive west. We joke about our “evening drive”. It is for the most part an evening drive, we leave early afternoon, drive evening and part of the night to reach the ferry at Tsawwassen for the first boat of the day. We love the drive, all 1142 km of it, with world class scenery most of the day and an open road at night
The drive went so well (as did the nap on the ferry!) that we decided to make a quick detour through Victoria (BC, Canada). We’ve discovered that there is a trick to us enjoying Victoria, we have to do the city fresh off the insanity of Alberta. We have to still be in that high intensity mode to handle the busyness and congestion of the city. We have tried in the past to go to Victoria after the slower pace of being on Pender Island and it is just too much, leaving us wondering why we went to “town”. So now we go to Victoria before heading to our little Gulf Island and we thoroughly enjoy it.
The Royal BC Museum had just opened a new exhibit, Gold Rush!, and we were keen to see it. Our children were well into checking out the artifacts and anything involving mining; clearly an addiction to Minecraft fueled this interest.
From the museum we were off to Thunderbird Park and the amazing totems.
Our parking time was ticking down, and the ferry time nearing, but we found time for a speed walk through town to Munro’s. Heaven. A real book store. Our children had never been there, but being massive readers they were in love.
For us, every trip to Victoria must include fish and chips. We suffer chippy withdrawal often. When we lived in the U.K. we were constantly popping around to the chippy for fish and chips, pie and chips, chips and curry……..oooh, and chicken pineapple half and half (we’ll see how many readers recognize that one!). Our chippy withdrawal gets so bad that we have on occasion considered driving to White Rock (12-13 hour drive) just to eat chips (and fried clams) on the front. There is nothing better than chips eaten out of paper wrapping. Even though catching the ferry was touch and go, we hit a chippy, and feasted as we drove to the ferry.
Long weekend ferry travel is busy, unpredictable, and sometimes insane. Perhaps if we didn’t ride the ferries so much in the winter we wouldn’t notice how different long weekends are. In the winter there is always space on a sailing, people are pretty chill, I grab a chai, head upstairs to the sitting lounge, and knit in relative peace (as much peace as you get when you have five children). In the summer cars are everywhere, people are everywhere, behavior is crazy, conversations are entertainingly pretentious….it is a treat. My husband and I could just sit and eavesdrop for hours. I’m not sure what it is about long weekends that makes everyone go all Fruit Loops, perhaps it is spending time with extended family, or the attempt to one-up their friends, but it makes for a people watching extravaganza.
This weekend was no different. people panicking to get on the ferry sailing, shouting at the ferry employee in the booth…frenzy. We sit in our car and watch in amazement. Worst case is that there is another ferry in four hours, and in our world that equates as a three and a half hour nap waiting for the next sailing. Naps are a luxury. We pull into our assigned lane with no hope of getting on the sailing due to leave in less than five minutes. Get settled in. Take off the cowboy boots (seriously…the red ones…..I have a collection!). Fluff the pillow (we come prepared) and plan for a nap. Well wouldn’t you know it our line starts moving. Car after car drives on to the ferry until we are at the front of the line. We’ve been there before, the car that doesn’t make it on a sailing, so we aren’t too hopeful. Just as we are settling in again the attendant says he is going to try to fit us on….and they do….at the back of the boat….sideways. I guess there is a first for everything.
Once on the island we took care of the most pressing things. First was grocery shopping; yes we shop local (I’ll collect my gold star later!). Second was to sort out the garden. The vegetable beds were growing great . My new plantings from February and April were still hanging in there (it is an iffy area I’m trying to revive). The apple trees are in bloom with promises of apples. The planters still flowered. The forested part continues to get wilder and wilder. I got to work and watered and watered; hand watering with a watering can is a workout. Hours later,grass cut and plants watered, we headed for an evening walk down to the far end of Medicine Beach.
The next day was equally busy. A trip to the hardware store was necessary to get materials to replace our deck stairs. Followed by a trip to the grocery store. Followed by a trip up to Sea Star Estate Farm and Vineyards. We were too late for the food truck (my fault, I was sending an epic text which delayed us!) but had a chance to check out the latest art exhibit. Quite a cool space to display art.
Paddling over, we got back to work. Of course as dinner time approached we started to think of what we should make for supper, which morphed into “Let’s not cook, let’s get Pender Sushi.”
As Pender Sushi is quite a drive from home, we tend to do take out and eat dinner on the beach. The choice of beach for dinner was Roesland, a Parks Canada site. Food and fresh air are a great combination, and the view was passable…….
Sunday saw us closing up the house, sorting out another knitting order (yep, always working!), a visit to a beach, and the night ferry out.
And off we went across the sea, over the mountains, and back to the prairies of Alberta.
A blur of a weekend.
A couple of weeks ago I had an idea to add in a “small town rambles” section to the categories section of the blog. As we are always on the road I thought it would be fun to share so of the smaller places we find off the beaten track. Some of these places we have been stopping at for years, others are new discoveries. This is the first blog post for the new category.
DeMille’s in Salmon Arm (British Columbia, Canada) is a favorite stopping place for our family. The other week, as we approached the entrance we saw a sign saying “Apples almost free, 40 lbs for $8”. The sign seemed almost too good to be true, so we just had to check it out.
As advertised……..40 pounds of apples for eight dollars! Not only that, but a choice of varieties. I was thrilled. Our family eats a lot of fruit, a huge box of apples for $8 means the kids can just eat and eat and eat. I actually contemplated whether we had room for a second box.
As my husband lined up to pay for this amazing find, I checked out the rest of the store. They have a range of really interesting food products, many of which are made by small producers in British Columbia. I’m always on the lookout for local products.
DeMille’s in Salmon Arm is definitely a great place to stop to shop and have a break, especially if you are heading to (or from) the coast or the Okanagan. They also have a great little farm area that our kids love to visit.
In “Part 2” I will share what we did with the apples.
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Yesterday we made the journey from the west coast of Canada back to Alberta. We had been watching weather forecasts for a few days trying to make the right (and safe) choice as to when to make the journey. Throughout the last few days of last week the forecast of what was to come was looking more and more serious. Reports were looking more serious by the day and we made the final decision that we had to leave the coast Saturday morning if we had any chance of beating the storm.
We caught the morning ferry from Pender Island to the mainland, docked and were on our way east by noon.
Luckily the roads were busy through the Lower Mainland but in pretty good shape. Even the Coquihalla wasn’t the worst we have ever driven. Visibility was okay and there wasn’t any deep snow on the road like we have faced on other occasions.
As we drove through the afternoon and evening we kept checking our phone for road conditions and weather information. The trip is a little over 1100 KM in distance through multiple mountain passes. The last thing we want is to be stuck due to a road closure, weather or avalanche control.
Below are the weather reports.
All indications were that the worst weather was coming through the next day. If we buckled down and switched drivers back and forth, one driving, one resting, we should be home before the worst of the weather took hold.
We drove the Rogers Pass which was almost empty of traffic except for a few semis.
We enjoyed an almost full moon at the summit of the Rogers Pass and then carried down to the town of Golden, BC. In Golden we had a bit of a shock, as we hit the city limits we narrowly missed hitting a deer by maybe 1 or two inches. It is pretty strange to see a deer bounce out from the bush and land right in front of your moving vehicle. I don’t know how we avoided it, and it was one big deer bounding out across the road, but I am sure happy we didn’t hit the deer. Obviously there are no pictures of the deer………..grabbing a camera wasn’t the first thing that came to mind!
We swapped drivers in Golden and my husband drove the Kicking Horse Pass. It isn’t my favorite. Hairpin turns. Steep drops. Semis that aren’t fussy what side of the road they take. Ice. I was quite happy to “not” be the driver. Somehow we made it through all the mountain passes with reasonable, but icy, winter driving conditions. We felt we had made the right decision to not only leave the coast when we did, but push through the passes.
We’ve discovered that when long haul driving that there is a certain point, sometime between 1:00 am and 5:00 am when you start to fixate on a food that you really want. One trip it was a 2:00 am poutine, while in the middle of the mountains…….not happening. Another trip it was bacon. No kidding we spent at least 2 hours discussing how there should be a contraption that went over the engine so that you could cook bacon while driving. We really wanted bacon (can you tell). The breakfast sandwich delivered bacon, what a treat.
Accidents, road closures for avalanche control, poor visibility and one report of a 6 car pile up on social media. We were sure the hard drive through was worth it to be home safe before the storm. If we weren’t sure from reading the reports, the webcam images proved it, the first storm of 2015 was about to hit British Columbia. It was much better to be safe at home rather than on a dangerous highway.
Unexpectedly we were able to buzz out to the island (Pender Island, BC, Canada) for a slightly extended long weekend. Due to the short time constraints it meant we drove out (and back) at slightly different times of day and were on our way to the ferry literally at the crack of dawn.
These images are taken on the Trans Canada Highway “just” before the 6:00 am cutoff. The scenery is in the stretch between Hope and Bridal Veil Falls in British Columbia (Canada).
We witnessed day break over the mountains as we sped towards the ferry. A quick detour was made for Tim Horton’s breakfast sandwiches and to fill the car with gas. We always fill with gas before Abbotsford, the last of the decent (kind of) priced gas; last time we checked, gas on our island was $1.65 per litre (crippling!).
These images were also taken on one of the last days before my lens ceased to work for a SECOND time…….. a story for another day………..but let’s just say there will be mostly wide angle shots in the blog in the near future (I might be forced to rethink camera gear soon! Possibly the only shopping I enjoy………and hardware stores.).
We spend a lot if time on the road. The best drives are on the road less travelled or evening drives on quiet roads.
Here are a few images from yesterday evening. It is interesting to watch the changing sky.
(Please ignore the bug smudges on the windshield, as soon as we clean it it is coated again 3 minutes later!)
This time slot of 2:00-3:00 am lined up nicely with our return trip from the coast. Originally we were going to take the last ferry off the island on Saturday, make our way just past Vancouver (BC, Canada) and drive the bulk of the journey on Sunday. This idea seemed practical in theory, but once we saw how busy the island was with tourists we knew getting a hotel room for seven on a Saturday in prime vacation season was going to be a near impossible task. Instead we enjoyed one more night in our house on the island and headed out on the first ferry of the day. Being a Sunday the direct ferry runs later, so to hit the mainland as early as possible we first took the ferry to Swartz Bay (near Victoria, BC) and then a second ferry across to the mainland. Later ferries meant we were still on the road at 2:00 am.
In general we spend A LOT of time on the road…….cabin every weekend May to October…….in a good year 10 trips to the coast (we’d like to do more!). Having things to do in the car is super important. I can’t read in the car as it makes me car sick, and I lose interest in looking at my phone or iPad pretty quickly. Mostly how I pass my time in the car is knitting, stitching and sometimes playing the harmonica. I always have the harmonica along, a blues harp in G. It is a great way to kill a bit of time and the fact I can play by ear amuses my kids (and it really irritated my piano teacher growing up!). So 2:00 am on the highway was a time for a little live music.
The highways were quiet by now. The crazies were all tucked in their little beds. It was the first time in forever that the QEII highway was actually a sane place to drive. No speeders, no police flying by, no accidents. Just quiet empty road…………..well that was until we reached Red Deer.
Nothing says “Red Deer” like a wailing siren and a speeding cop car. Yep, welcome home. We made it less than 5 minutes within the city limits and we were back to howling sirens ALL…….THE……TIME. It boggles the mind how we can drive all the way from the coast, including THROUGH VANCOUVER, and never hear a siren until we hit Red Deer. But Red Deer sure made up for it. Sirens on the edge of town, as we drove through town, and a whole new batch of sirens as we went into our house. I wish I could say this is an isolated event, but it isn’t. This is what it is like living in Red Deer all the time now, not just at 2:00 or 3:00 am.
We pulled up to our house to find our sidewalk covered with tree branches and leaves, the remnants of a hail storm while we were gone. Into the house we went, gave the kids a snack, and tucked them into bed. Just before going to bed our four year old asked “Are we going to the cabin tomorrow?”. What can I say, our kids are travelers.