Friday, October 29, 2010

Edmonton, and best laid plans...

I arrived in Edmonton around 5.00 pm on Saturday, finding my host's home without too much difficulty.

Inger is a woman I worked with way back when in Vancouver, we have kept in touch over the years. She and her husband moved to Edmonton shortly after I moved to Toronto, to better jobs, more affordable housing, and wonder of wonders, a way better social life. They pay the price of a nasty winter for all that. I have been promising to visit ever since they moved here, finally I've made it.

I told Inger about the dog at the rest stop and wondered if it would be rescued or euthanized. Inger said, Around here they don't euthanize dogs. They'll find a home for him.

I planned to stay a day or two to visit before heading on. Sunday morning we woke to sleet, mixed snow and rain. It only got worse.

My host---who was off to a course at 7.45 am---said, No snow, that's just Fat Rain.

She refused to admit to the possibility of the white stuff.

Sure as heck looked like snow to me.

Inger left for a conference in Vancouver on Monday and I got an invitation to stay in Calgary on my trip east. Although making my trip slightly longer it worked well with my itinerary plans so I packed up to leave the same day as Inger. On her way to the airport Inger was surfing the net on her Crackberry and found a catalytic heater she thought would make my nights on the road a little more comfortable. She sent the info to me and I looked a little further and discovered that a nearby Canadian Tire had such a beast so I hopped in the truck to go pick it up.

Turns out that sometime since I arrived in Edmonton, the windshield wiper motor switch on my truck gave out. Not a good thing when it is snowing, it meant I had to physically hold the switch on to get the wipers to work which is hard to do when you are signalling a turn and then attempting to actually make the turn.

So, I returned to the house and woke up Inger's husband Dale, who is working night shift this week. He was gracious about being woken up and immediately got on the phone looking for a garage that would repair my truck toute de suite.

This was the first snow of the season here, which means most of the city was trying to get into a garage to get their snow tires on. Trying to find one that would fix a wiper motor switch the same day was kind of out to lunch. Nevertheless he tried, and managed to find a garage that would do it the next day. Dale went back to bed and at the appointed hour got up and went off for his night shift. The idea was that when he returned at 6.30am we would then drive the truck to the garage.

However, we did not write down the name and address of the garage, and sure enough, we both forgot where we had the appointment. In a mad scramble at 7.00am we found another garage that would "take a look" at the truck. When we got there though they were booked up and couldn't even look, they sent us off to another garage further out of town. That garage said it could do the job almost right away, however Dale was exhausted and needed to sleep before his next shift, so the earliest we could pick up the truck was considerably later in the day.

The garage called to give me their cost estimate: $350. The switch is inside the steering wheel column, making it a labour intensive job.

Then they called back to say that they had broken something inside the column and would have to replace the entire column.

Then they called back to say that they couldn't find a steering wheel column for my truck. Still later they called to say that they had found one at a wrecking yard, but it was going to be different from my original steering wheel column (something called a slant column), and that they were having trouble removing it from the vehicle it was in at the wrecking yard, so they were very sorry but they would not be able to finish the job until the next day.

My invitation to stay in Calgary is fairly open-ended, they even went so far as to say that if I got there after they were planning to go to Vancouver, they would leave the key at their neighbour's so I could stay over even if they were not home. Who knows when I'll get my truck back. Or what the new steering column is going to be like. I do know that the cost is going to be higher than the original estimate, but the fellow at the garage thinks he can keep it down to only a $50 increase.

He gave me a bit of a rant about car companies that discontinue perfectly good truck models and then don't keep up parts inventories for them. As if we can all afford to buy a new vehicle every couple of years. He expressed some admiration that I had kept this particular truck going for as long as I have, and some chagrin at failing to support me in that endeavour. But he hoped this substitute slant column would be acceptable.

I sure hope it does not have one of those safety air bag thingies in it.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Heading eastward

The Duffy Lake Road was fine, no construction line-ups, no snow, spectacular views, and even a rainbow.

I stopped to look at Seton Lake near the end of the Duffy Lake Road; this lake connects to Anderson Lake at its far western end, and D'Arcy is at the south end of Anderson.

On my first day on the road I got as far as Valemount on Highway 5, just before the Yellowhead Highway.

Just before Valemount I stopped for gas and the attendant there eyeballed the stickers on my windshield. One is my Nova Scotia safety sticker, the other is my Toronto parking sticker.

He recognized Toronto City Hall on the parking sticker and asked if I worked for the City of Toronto.

I said, No but I used to live there.

He said that he used to live in Ontario too, in Kingston. He liked Toronto he said, he felt safe there.

He said he'd walked the streets of Toronto at night---he rhymed off a few---and he never felt unsafe there. Vancouver, he shook his head, is a different story. Downtown Eastside...

I agreed with him.

He said, You know, Toronto is multicultural, but Vancouver is, just mean. The people are just mean.

Hmmm, haven't heard that one before, I wondered what his experience was. It's a beautiful city set in a fabulous landscape, but some parts of that city are very hard.

He wished me a good trip.

The next day I drove through Robson Provincial Park and Jasper National Park on the Yellowhead.

The boundary between the two parks is also the border between British Columbia and Alberta.

I think Jasper is way more interesting than Banff National Park just south of it, but not nearly as famous. I saw lots more wildlife in Jasper Park than I did on my trip through Banff on the way to Vancouver in August. But that may have had something to do with all the road construction going on then.

I saw mostly elk and mountain goats, hanging out close to the road. In Jasper Park, the valley between the mountains is relatively broad so you can get wonderful views of the mountains without craning your neck upward. There are broad swaths of grass along the highway and I think that attracts the elk and goats in the fall, they appeared to be fattening up for the winter. On one occasion the cars slowed to almost a halt, passing by a couple of nonchalant mountain goats on the shoulder. They seem unafraid of vehicles, or of the people that emerge from them with cameras in hand. And they are huge, easily as big as large deer, almost as big as the elk. And fat.

I stopped in the town of Jasper just to see it, and also to deposit a cheque that Sam gave me in exchange for cash to hold him over till the next time he got near a bank machine.

The next town on the highway after Jasper Park was Hinton. Passing through Hinton brought back memories. It is the gateway to the Rockies on the Yellowhead, it is also the CN train station where the Mounties used to come on board westward headed passenger trains to remove the drunks. For all I know they still do, but it's been a long time since I travelled on that train.

In 1969 I headed west on the train with my boyfriend, for the grand price of $50 for a one-way ticket from Toronto to Vancouver. That got you a seat in coach class for the 3-4 day trip. They were bench seats, if you were lucky you snagged two facing benches so you could sleep more or less lying down. Everyone smoked and many drank. The air was pretty gross by the time you got to Vancouver.

The drinkers got their come-uppance in Hinton, the worst of the lot being removed by the aforementioned Mounties. I am not sure why they did that in Hinton, maybe it's OK to be drunk in the north woods and across the prairies, but not in the mountains. Or maybe it took that long for them to become obnoxious enough for the train people to be fed up with them.

And that is pretty much all I know about Hinton.

In a rest stop somewhere after that an old dog was wandering around. There were a lot of vehicles there, but after a few minutes most of the vehicles were gone and the old dog was still there. An older fellow in a car gave the dog scraps and asked me if it was my dog. I said No, and we looked at each other and the one other truck still at the rest stop. The fellow in that truck didn't own the dog either. The truck driver tried to read the dog's collar, but the dog growled at him. The old man phoned somebody to report the stray dog.

Aside from growling at the truck driver, the dog seemed friendly. If I wasn't planning to spend the night at a friend's place I would seriously have considered picking him up. He let me look at his collar but there was no tag. I hope whoever the old man called came to get the dog.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Goodbye to D'Arcy

I am staying at Sam's place in D'Arcy before heading east for the winter.

Doesn't that sound backwards? Shouldn't I be heading west or south? Silly me!

On Tuesday night I slept in the truck. It was cold but fine in my warm sleeping bag.

On Wednesday night, knowing that it would be colder than Tuesday, I thought I'd sleep in Sam's guest room, the attic. But the place is absolutely infested with stink bugs. I started out killing a bunch of them, they are slow-moving and easy targets, but it didn't stop the tide. I read in bed for awhile, occasionally smashing a stink bug, but when one crawled up onto my chest I gave up. Shaking out all my bedding and clothes I beat a retreat to the truck.

Sam has closed off his attic in hopes that the cold will do in the miserable creatures, but at the very least the closed trapdoor should keep them up in the attic rather than downstairs in his living space.

They're fairly harmless, just disgusting. Sam tells me they are not native to North America, so they have no predators here. They are vegetarian and cause problems for some farmers, but do not bite humans or carry disease. They are large and slow-moving and when they fly they seem incapable of landing, they just crash into things. Also they emit a bad smell, hence their name.

Nights are getting cold, in the truck it dropped to +3C. By the time I reach northern Ontario it should be closer to -3C.

I am debating whether to take the Duffy Lake Road (the switchback road from hell) from here, or retrace my steps to Vancouver and take the Coquihalla. Apparently there is construction on the Duffy Lake with one lane of traffic for almost 50 km. On those switchbacks that means a good hour or more, so if you get to the flag point at the wrong time you could be waiting for up to 2 hours to go through. Normally that road would cut hundreds of kilometers and a couple of hours off the trip east, so it's a dilemma. Also it's very scenic when driven during the daytime with no snow on the road.

I have friends in Edmonton that I will stay with and visit, a night on the road in Saskatchewan---hopefully I will make it back to Buffalo Pound Lake Provincial Park for that night---and another night with my niece in Winnipeg. Then two nights on the road in northern Ontario and a visit with my brother in Kirkland Lake. Another dilemma. Take the colder northern route or the slightly warmer but considerably longer southern route? I will have to play it by ear, it will depend on just how cold. I think I can handle -5C, but I am not sure about -10C.

Yesterday I went walking on the mountain with the dogs, and they took off on me. There was no hope of finding them, they move a lot faster than I can. I didn't know if they had found some shortcut home or if they were off hunting (they do that sometimes). I called them a bunch of times and then started walking back to Sam's place. The lousy buggers caught up with me about 15 minutes away from the cabin. Hapi (the female) is the instigator, Hiro (the male) is more inclined to return when called than she is, but he gets anxious when she doesn't come too so he tends to stay with her.

While walking home without them I was thinking bad thoughts about them. They don't like to abandon each other in the mountains, but they sure don't care about abandoning me. However they did stick close to me after they returned, waiting for me to catch up whenever they got just out of sight. And they were completely beat for the rest of the day when we got back to the cabin.

This will probably be the last time I visit this place, I will most likely not return before Sam moves to Windsong.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


I finished the last Larsson book and packed up to leave Vancouver on Friday. Beofre leaving however, I had to get snow tires on the truck, and Dave insisted I get the engine noise checked out before I left. It has been noisy for so long that I was used to it and didn't think it was unusual, but he did. He thought it was my water pump and as it turned out, he was correct. Good thing I got it checked out I guess, but between that and the snow tires I dropped $1400 in two days at the same auto shop. That hurt.

My intention was to visit yet more friends who live in Whistler and then pick up the last of my stuff at D'arcy before heading east. I had wonderful sunny clear weather for the scenic drive to Whistler, and arrived in time to go for a lengthy hike around the neighbourhood. Lots of great views of the surrounding mountains. This picture is of the Armchair Glacier, just to the "left" of Blackcomb and Whistler ski mountains.

We walked out to Green Lake, where we saw a beaver lodge built into the shore and considerable beaver damage among the nearby trees. They had felled a bunch of trees, some of them quite large. One tree had been girdled but not felled. Several trees had fallen only partially, hung up in other trees. The girdled tree had another felled tree leaning on it so if they ever chew threw they will get two very big trees in one.

Whistler is a well-known resort town, houses there sell for millions of dollars. We walked through a neighbourhood of some of those million-dollar homes. They are fairly spectacular, with large wooden beams and lots of glass to take advantage of the surrounding mountain views. But they are also crowded together like a subdivision. If you want privacy in Whistler, you pay way more than a million or two for it.

My friends in Whistler live in a cabin that he, Keith, built in the early '70s, before Whistler was a money destination. It is well done, he being an engineer, but he says that for Whistler it is a tear-down. They are doing some renovations to make it more comfortable but there is no point in renovating for resale value because all the value is in the site, not the house.

We watched the Stellar's Jays on their deck, they come for the peanuts that Keith and Judy throw to them. One jay is quite fearless, he takes the peanut from your hand. In the morning he perches on the patio door frame, insistent on his peanut handout. Other jays are not so bold, they wait hidden in the surrounding spruces to pounce on a thrown peanut. They are very beautiful birds with large black crests bigger than the eastern Blue Jay's crest. But just as raucous.

On my second day in Whistler we drove out to the Olympic Village, built near the old site of the town dump (I have to laugh at that). We then followed a trail up the Cheakamus River, across a suspension foot bridge and back down the other side of the river. Along the way we looked at many mushrooms. Judy had recently been on a mushroom identification walk in Whistler and wanted to reinforce her newfound knowledge of mushrooms. It was quite interesting all the different kinds of mushrooms we saw, but being rank amateurs none of us knew their names or edibility status.

At night we could see lights on the two skiing mountains, Blackcomb and Whistler. Tiny lights outlined the lifts to different ski runs and one bright light identified a shelter high on Blackcomb. We speculated as to why it was lit up, Judy told me their was a summer road up there and we wondered if maybe they were provisioning the cabin for the winter when the road was closed.

Besides the Stellar's Jays I also saw my first Clark's Nutcracker, hanging upside down from spruce branches prying loose the seeds from the spruce cones. Smart and handsome looking bird.

Monday, October 18, 2010

My alter ego

Johanna and I in our matching jackets, holding our matching water bottles.

I'm off on the road again.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Sechelt renos, Vibes, smugglers and eagles

I visited friends who live near Sechelt for a few days. They are in the midst of renovations, so it was hard to pick a good time to visit between all the scheduled (and rescheduled) rounds of contractors and renovations. They were redoing the floors, windows and doors, and installing an all-new kitchen. We finally managed a couple of days when they were between contractors. The floors, windows and doors were done and the old kitchen largely dismantled, but the new kitchen still in the works. That meant no kitchen cabinets and no dishwasher or kitchen sink. Dishes were stored temporarily in a laundry room cabinet and water came from the laundry tub (good thing they had one!). Carpets were rolled up and furniture was shoved into corners.

The visit was fun though, we spent one day in town doing errands and shopping and another day hiking out to nearby Smugglers' Cove. While in town I checked around for the cost of snow tires for my truck, I need new tires and they may as well be snow tires at this time of year.

I told my friends about a car that friends in Nova Scotia think I should consider for my next vehicle, the Pontiac Vibe. We saw one parked on the street in front of a store where they cut keys, it turned out to belong to the store owner. When he wasn't running the store he was out gold prospecting, he said he used the Vibe for everything and it was a helluva good car. He couldn't understand why they discontinued it, it was so good. Maybe that's why.

Anyway, after that Morrie was spotting Vibes everywhere. It's based on the Toyota Matrix, and looks almost identical to it, but Morrie quickly determined and pointed out the small differences in styling. I would never have figured that out.

Smugglers' Cove is a little cove hidden from view on the coast, as most smugglers' coves are. This particular smugglers' cove was used for human smuggling. When the first national railway was completed in 1885 many Chinese labourers were let go and had no work. They were unable to leave the country and were mistreated because of racism. So human smugglers transported them, for a price, into the United States to find work there. This was one of the points of embarkment.

We hiked out to a rocky point where we enjoyed the sunlight and beautiful view. A bald eagle in a tree there was disturbed by our arrival with three dogs, but it did not budge from its perch. We took a few pictures of it while it pretended not to notice us.

We watched a tugboat slowly towing a huge log boom, the logs looked to be very large and at least three deep. I think the tugboat was moving at no more than one knot, it took a very long time to cross our line of sight. We had lunch while watching its progress.

On the walk back we encountered a couple of mushroom pickers. They were from one of the yachts moored in the cove, and were looking for edible mushrooms in the woods. They said it was a poor year for them, too dry.

We later went for an early supper at a nearby pub with a view of another cove just up the way. I had a hamburger and fries with beer. Although the walk was not strenuous or long, we were quite exhausted by the time we got back to my friends' house.

While at their place I was happy to be sleeping in the truck, it was not cold and was more comfortable than an air mattress on the floor. I don't much care for air mattresses.

The ferry trip back to Horseshoe Bay was uneventful and I got in some reading. Johanna and Dave, my hosts in Vancouver, and I have been working our ways through the Stieg Larsson Millennium trilogy (The Girl Who... books). I recently bought the last one and am trying to get through it in time to leave it behind for Johanna and Dave to read after I leave. So I have a bit of a deadline and it is a huge book. Reading time is valuable.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

A walk on the expensive side

Marina and I went for a walk around the Olympic Village on False Creek in Vancouver. The buildings are mostly empty, they are having some difficulty selling off the condos there.

We took a look at a couple of open houses and I guess I am not surprised. They seem tiny for the prices being charged (starting at half a million, and I am pretty sure the "two bedrooms plus flex" that we were looking at were well beyond that), and one was unbelievably dark in the middle of a sunny afternoon. You would never find your way around in there without the lights on. How depressing!

I guess the main selling feature of these condos is location. The views (from those condos with views) are of False Creek and peekaboo glimpses of mountains between highrises. You're right downtown, you have a community centre in the middle, and you're not far from the skytrain. But the condos themselves don't much appeal to me. Neither do peekaboo mountains.

I liked the giant sparrows near the community centre. They were cute.

Friday, October 8, 2010


I have visited with several friends in the Vancouver area over the last couple of weeks. In particular I saw Marina, Irene and Catherine.

I spent an afternoon and evening with my friend Marina. She and I each have three kids, hers are all girls mine are all boys. She has two grandchildren and up until recently so did I. Now I have three (Yay!). We enjoy comparing notes.

Marina and I first met when we were both attending the Shambhala Buddhist Centre in Vancouver in the late nineties. Neither of us go there any more, but Marina is still in contact with many people from the centre. We used to go out to a nearby coffee shop, the Java Hut, and Marina still hangs out there. She's taking courses at Emily Carr College of Art and Design and the Java Hut is a place for her to read and do homework, not to mention eat, drink coffee and meet friends.

Anyway, that's where I met Marina that day. We hung out there for a little while and then went down to Kits Beach to walk. We walked along the beach and then past the old planetarium and boat launch and marina to Granville Island, we kept walking along False Creek a ways past the island. The Bard on the Beach tents were still up but I believe that is over for the season.

We decided to go to the Heaven on Earth Curry House for dinner, another of our old haunts. The restaurant is owned by a Sikh woman who comes to our table to chat with us about our respective families. She has two grown children, a boy and a girl.

The daughter married into a Washington DC family, it was an arranged marriage. In their culture, once a girl is married she becomes part of her husband's family and her own parents have very little to do with her after that. She continued her university studies in Washington along with her husband, graduated, and eventually had a baby. Her mother has only seen that baby once and has no plans to visit again in the near future.

The son is attending university here. He wanted to go into accounting but his parents insisted that he study engineering as they needed someone with an engineering background in his father's business. The son was initially not happy about that decision, but his mother says that he likes it better now. They plan to find a wife for him from India.

It seems very strange to Marina and I, we spend a lot of time comparing notes on our various children and grandchildren and can't imagine living like our host's family does. It is a view into a whole other way of living.

The food there is heavenly. Can't eat there too often! I've never seen this restaurant full so I don't know how she keeps it going, but it has been there a very long time. Maybe her husband's business is so successful she doesn't have to worry about making a profit, but she seems more practical than that.

I had dinner with Irene at a local pub. The food was unusually bad. I have eaten there before and don't remember the food being particularly bad, but this time it was. Irene complained and they gave us free appies in compensation, but the appies were only marginally better. What can I say.

Irene and I know each other from the strata we both lived in (in BC a condo corporation is called a strata). She sold her condo shortly before I did, and then I house sat for her after my condo sold and she went on vacation. That gave me a place to stay over the winter until I was ready to leave the province in the spring. For a while we were on the strata council together when our strata was going through a leaky condo envelop rehab. Stressful times.

Irene's parents are in a nursing home, her mother had dementia and her father is older and frailer. They share a room and are private patients so they pay over $8500 a month. Irene is not impressed with the level of care they get for their money, and is constantly on the nursing home's case to do better.

Irene doesn't let things go, she's a formidable "complainer". At one point this summer her father had an infection and both the nursing home and the doctor gave him up for dead. Irene insisted that they do better and as a result they gave him a second round of antibiotics that cleared up the infection. Irene also insisted on aftercare to get him back on his feet since his musculature had deteriorated from being sick in bed for so long.

The doctor complimented Irene for her dedication, but Irene felt that she shouldn't have had to do that, that if the doctor was doing his job then he would have seen that the first round of antibiotics had not cleared up the infection and would have prescribed a second round, instead of telling her that her father was dying. But Irene sees that the end is not far off and she should prepare for the worst.

Catherine and I went for lunch at a restaurant near where she works in downtown Vancouver. We met years ago when I was a manager and hired her as our senior technical writer. She and I had about the same level of experience as technical writers, but I moved on to become a manager and she remained a writer. That was a conscious decision on her part and I think she made the right choice. I think I would be less disillusioned about working if I had done the same, being a manager was not particularly fun. [Joke: What is the Middle Management Prayer? Sorry, middle management doesn't have a prayer!]

We exchanged a bit of gossip about what various people we both know are doing now, and caught up a bit on our lives thus far. Catherine has UK citizenship as does her husband, so she would like to move away from North America. Her dream home is near Toulouse, France. She's keeping her eye out for jobs there. More immediately though she's thinking about moving to Victoria; her boss at her current workplace says she could keep her job and work from home there. She's tired of Vancouver, it's too big for her she says. She has come to the conclusion that she's really a small town girl.

If she moves to Toulouse I will have to go visit her there! She says I can forget about her ever visiting me in Nova Scotia, she and her husband plan to avoid that end of the country indefinitely. I know that he grew up in Nova Scotia and does not have happy memories of the place.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010


Sam came into town last weekend to visit his new niece and to show me Windsong.

Last spring he bought a small one bedroom plus den unit in Windsong Cohousing out in Langley, BC. It is the oldest cohousing place in BC, 14 years old this year. As luck would have it, the unit next door to Sam's also came up for sale shortly after Sam bought his unit, and he wanted me to buy it. Everything Sam told me and everything I already had heard about Windsong made me very interested in the idea and I did put a bid in on the unit, but it was beyond my price range and another bidder got it. I was kind of disappointed at the time, and it made looking for a place in Nova Scotia that much harder, emotionally speaking.

Sam won't be moving into Windsong for awhile so in the meantime he has rented his unit out. But he is already a part of that community even though he does not live there himself. The afternoon that he took me on a tour of Windsong almost everyone we met there greeted Sam by name and he stopped to chat with them. There were two women having tea on the lawn behind Windsong and it turned out one of them was a founding member of Windsong and used to own Sam's place.

Windsong sits on 5 acres smack in the middle of developed suburb, surrounded by condominium complexes on a busy road. The buildings occupy one acre and there is a salmon stream surrounded by wetland taking up about half of the property. The rest is visitor parking, residents' garden plots, lawn and play space.

The complex is laid out as two wings, north and south, with a central building of community rooms. Each wing is two large buildings with a wide glass-covered "atrium" between them. Units range from one bedroom to four bedrooms, all with main entrances onto the atrium. Many units have furniture or decorative objects in the atrium, kind of like tiny front yards. They are all brightly painted in different colours.

The central building has a large dining-lounge-kitchen room, another large lobby-lounge area, and several smaller rooms including meeting space, a dance studio and an art studio, and a guest room for visitors. Another large room is a children's play area with a separate exit to an outdoor play area.

Being a sort of intentional community, there are the obligatory committee meeting notices, newsletters and event announcements posted in the lobby and lounge area. Children's toys and bikes are scattered everywhere. This cohousing community is one of the more varied in BC, comprising children and adults of all ages.

Sam had let his tenants know that we were coming; they told him that they would be away but would leave the door unlocked so we could walk through and view the interior of Sam's unit. Sam knocked on the door and sure enough there was no answer so we just walked in. It was rather dark inside, the window space is not really sufficient for decent lighting. But otherwise the unit is nicely laid out and has a small overgrown and private patio. The original owner of this unit had planted the patio as an edible landscape, but I don't think it was maintained after she moved out. No doubt many of the plants growing there are edible, but not very recognizable.

This would be a nice community to be part of I think, especially for someone my age. And it would have been nice to live next door to Sam and his dogs. His idea had been that I would take one of the dogs and he the other; that way they could stay together but apart. As it is, it is doubtful he will be able to keep the two dogs when he moves to Windsong, it will just be too crowded and he will have to find a job there that will probably necessitate leaving the dogs alone and cooped up every day.

I have considered taking the dogs to Nova Scotia, but if I do then that will be the end of my travelling days, there is just no way I could travel with two giant malemutes. Unless I got myself a giant RV, which I really don't want to do. We are extremely reluctant to separate these dogs, they have been together all their lives. But finding a home for them together is a big problem. There's still some time to find a solution, but right now I don't see a good one.

There are quite a few cohousing places in BC but they are mostly fairly expensive and/or not close to urban centres. I like the look and feel of Windsong, but I think I would go a little crazy living in the middle of Langley suburbia. It'd be like living in a small island community in a sea of anonymity. The price Sam paid for his unit was unusually inexpensive for cohousing in BC.

There are a few cohousing places outside of BC, but none in the Maritimes that I know of.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010


I've been trying to spend as much time as I can with little Eva, visiting for a few hours every day last week and a few days this week. I took a few pictures with my iPhone, but they are not very good.

Josh and Kim received a wonderful gift of professional photos of Eva shortly after she was born and those photos are beautiful.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Back to Brentwood Bay

My brother Peter moved to Vancouver Island just north of Victoria shortly after I moved away from Vancouver a few years ago. He lives with his partner Pat there and I visited them just over a week ago.

I took the ferry from Horseshoe Bay to Nanaimo and then drove down the Malahat to get to my brother's place just north of Victoria. It probably would have been quicker to drive through Vancouver to Tsawwassen and take the ferry to Swartz Bay, but I was trying to catch an early ferry and did not want to contend with rush hour traffic through the city. The drive down the Malahat was far more pleasant.

We had a late lunch at a local restaurant on the water and then drove to Mount Douglas to catch the view.

Peter and I went kayaking on Brentwood Bay the next day, it was similar to the last time two years ago. Good weather, calm water, lots of jellyfish. Peter saw an otter in the water.

The jellyfish are neat to see, small and white floating at different depths in flocks? schools? clouds? What do you call a bunch of jellyfish all floating along together? We paddled around in the little inlet looking for them, they were not spread out evenly but in a kind of jellyfish river through the bay. There were also a couple of really large jellyfish, more than a foot across and two feet or more in length swimming along by themselves. Maybe the big ones aren't interested in company.

The last day I was there Peter's partner Pat took me on a little tour of the local farm markets. The area is full of small farms, and many of them have their own produce stands. One place sold honey and honey-related products (beeswax candles, honeycombs, and such). They had different kinds of honey and the saleswoman let me sample the flavours of the different kinds of honey they sold.

This particular place has been in the local news recently because the province has had a ban on importing bees but that ban was recently lifted and this honey producer was the first to take advantage of that. This was controversial; some were saying that lifting the ban would allow bee diseases to enter the province. Pat asked the woman about this controversy. She responded that it was true that they had imported bees, but they imported them from one of the Prairie provinces, i.e., not across the border. And, they sent their own people to the seller to inspect the bees before bringing them back to Vancouver Island.

She said that experienced beekeepers can tell how healthy honey bees are just by visual inspection. Plus, she said, all their hive sites are at the north end of the island far from any other honey producers, so even if the bees they imported turned out to be diseased, they were in effect quarantined by distance from other hives.

She felt they were acting responsibly and the recent media attention to this transaction was unwarranted. She was quite unembarrassed or upset by the question and happy to fill us in on her perspective on the issue.

We also visited markets that sold a variety of local produce, Pat did a little shopping at each place. I picked up a few items as well, all that fresh produce was really tempting. I was impressed by the variety of what was available.

At one market I saw an arrow sign saying To Animals. I followed the sign around the back of the market building. It was raining and I could see no pens or cages, just one duck and one chicken standing in the rain by the driveway. The chicken was trying to stay dry under a small tree, the duck was less concerned about getting wet. Its face was covered in some red structure that made it look a bit like a rooster or turkey, and it had a few white feathers on its head that stood up in a crest when I approached it. I could tell just how nervous the duck was by the movement of its crest, if I stood still the crest relaxed and if I moved it rose again.

I took the afternoon ferry from Swartz Bay to Tsawwassen to return to the mainland. That put me south of Vancouver right at rush hour and I was treated to an almost two hour drive through the city to get home. Pat thought I should avoid the Malahat in the rain, but driving back to North Vancouver from Tsawwassen during rush hour is no treat either. I think I would have preferred to take my chances on the Malahat.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Gambier Island and Deep Cove

I am finding it difficult to keep this blog up to date, I am not inclined to spend an hour or so every couple of days working on it. On Friday I had nothing planned and thought it would be a good day to get caught up on my blog, but it was a sunny warm day and the thought of staying indoors to work on a computer on such a day was off-putting. I went kayaking instead, wore myself out completely, with no energy when I returned to do anything but eat and watch TV.


Since my last blog post I have visited my brother on Vancouver Island, visited Windsong Cohousing with Sam, spent lots of time with Kim and baby Eva, and had meals with several old friends from when I used to live here.

I am planning to spend more time with Eva and then Thanksgiving with family, a brief trip to Sechelt, and then travelling homeward. Right now I am on Gambier Island for the last time this year.

Saturday was a great sunny day, Sunday is "mizzly"---somewhere between misty and drizzly---so we are reading, blogging and marking homework. The dog is sleeping. Johanna and I will leave the island later today and have dinner in Horseshoe Bay, Dave will stay on to continue working on the deck he is building on the cabin.

I went out to Deep Cove on Indian Arm to do a bit of paddling on Friday. It turned out that there was no place in Deep Cove to actually launch from, even though there is a kayak rental place there. So I drove down the road to Cates Park next to the First Nations reserve and launched there. Cates Park is on a point of land separating Burrard Inlet (Vancouver Harbour) from Indian Arm. I paddled up the Arm as far as Deep Cove and then turned around and paddled back.

The first half was calm and windless, with only the wake of passing cruisers to contend with; I guess they were all headed up the Arm to spend a sunny weekend on the water. But about the time I decided to turn around and go back the breeze came up and I was paddling upwind to get back. A bit strenuous. By the time I got back to the small beach in Cates Park near where my truck was parked, I had just enough energy left to get the kayak back on the roofrack and that was it.

But it was lovely to be out on the water.

On the ferry trip to the island Saturday morning I happened to see an old friend on the ferry, so I got to spend the forty minute ferry ride visiting with her. She lives in Sechelt so I may see her again when I am visiting there, we may even go kayaking. I have to say that I have done very little paddling this year and it seems kind of dumb to lug the kayak all the way out here for the very few hours I have spent actually using it.

On Gambier Island we are seeing lots of deer, they are out in force scarfing up everything edible.

Yesterday we walked down to the wharf and saw a school of herring off the wharf. It was a very dense mass of small black fish just below the surface of the water.

On the wharf railings and nearby rocks perched some rather sated-looking seagulls. I guess they were taking a break from fishing.

The school of fish seemed to move almost as a single organism. Periodically the mass would develop an "arm" that would flow under the wharf to the other side and then back again.

At one point it flowed out and around a piling and back to the main body of fish, forming a ring around the piling. When we made noise on the wharf the "arm" would quickly withdraw back to the main school. It was an eerie sight and I wore out my camera battery trying to take pictures of it.

I will describe my visit with my brother and with various friends in subsequent posts.