Monday, May 27, 2013

Final destination, the lower mainland

Mount Robson, near Alberta-BC border
The trip to Vancouver took 3 days, I think I could have done it in 2 if I had pushed. There were no further tire or wheel incidents.

Once I crossed over from Alberta to BC the road traffic increased exponentially, lots of RVs and tour buses. A couple of times I happened to stop at rest areas where there was a tour bus, they were generally full of Asians who loved Hapi on sight. We would get mobbed by people with cameras who I guess thought we were part of the whole BC experience. Hapi loves attention and would rub up against all the women, to their great delight.

One woman had the dickens of a time trying to get her photo because Hapi just wanted to be petted and the woman wanted Hapi to pose for her. After much running around and calling and backing up she finally got her photo. It's kind of funny to be the subject of excited tourists' cameras when you are sort of a tourist yourself.

At another rest stop a car pulled up behind me and let their little dog out who proceeded to run in excited circles. Hapi gave chase. It turned out the grassy area was full of prairie dog holes and the little dog's owners were locals who would bring the dog there for exercise. After a few minutes of chasing pop-up prairie dogs the dog was done and they drove on to their destination. I tried to interest Hapi in the game but she didn't get why all those holes were such a big deal.

There was lots of scenery, mountains and big trees and rushing rivers, it was nice to see but I am afraid I've become a bit inured to mountain scenery in my old age. Nothing new.

My truck, parked below one of the sites of the big forest fire of 2010
I stayed at my friend's brother's place again the first night out from Hay River, only this time he wasn't there. However he had told me that the lock on the back door was broken so I could just let myself in if I wanted to stay there again while he was away. It was and I did. The next night I stayed in a rest area that was fairly nondescript but I was the only person there. It rained. I got up early and drove away without breakfast, figuring that I would stop as soon as the rain did and make coffee and breakfast then.

When I did stop for breakfast I let Hapi wander around. Another car came in, a man got out and whistled. Hapi made a bee-line to him. Boy, if that guy had wanted to steal my dog he would have had no problem at all. A few moments later another truck and camper pulled in and a guy got out and started walking towards Hapi and me. He asked if she was a malamute. When I said Yes he said he had a giant malamute in his truck. I looked and sure enough there was a giant dog face in the side window of his truck. He said that his wife spotted my dog in the rest stop and instructed him to pull over, that there was another malamute there.

He let his dog out and sure enough it was giant malamute, all 180 lbs of him. Giant malamutes can run to 250 lbs so as giants go he was actually on the small side. He was excited to see Hapi but I think Hapi found him a little intimidating. What a goof. OK to intimidate a shih-tsu but doesn't like being intimidated by giant dogs herself.

I stopped for gas in Abbotsford, from the past I knew it was the cheapest place to buy gas in the entire province. Believe it or not, gas in Hay River is cheaper than in BC, the price in Abbotsford was on a par with Hay River. In Vancouver itself the price is $0.10/litre more expensive. In BC they have a carbon tax that makes gas quite expensive, but everything in Vancouver is more expensive than anywhere else, which is why I don't live there anymore. That and the rain. Beautiful, but expensive and wet.

The long anticipated reunion of Hapi and Hiro was a little anticlimactic: Hiro was delighted, Hapi not so much.

Sam was out when we arrived there but he gave me the door code via text message so we were able to go in. Sam was away all day and left Hiro in a darkened apartment with all the curtains drawn, so when I opened the door I could not see him at first. He came to check out who was at the door, sniffing and sniffing. I watched his tail rise and wag faster and faster, until his whole rear end was wagging as he sniffed Hapi all over. Hapi looked quite alarmed.

Hiro's rear end just a blur of tail wagging,
Hapi looking a little apprehensive
Hiro made all sorts of efforts to get Hapi to play with him but she would have none of it, she was looking at me with a kind of "Get me out of here" expression. Hiro would tap her on the shoulder with his paw and bow and scrape in front of her but that didn't do any good. The only time he could get a rise out of her was when he greeted me, she was jealous and tried to push him away. When Sam finally arrived home Hapi recognized him instantly and was ecstatic to greet him. I no longer existed for her.

Here I was thinking that she would miss and be happy to reunite with Hiro, when it was really Sam her heart belonged to!

The next day we took the two dogs to an offleash dogpark and they did play with each other like old times. After that things seemed back to normal between them, I think Hapi is quite content to be with Hiro now and especially content to be with Sam again. I am leaving her with him while I go visit friends, she didn't even notice my unpacking the truck and driving off without her.

Hiro and Hapi at the dogpark
Sam lives in cohousing which is quite a tight-knit community, I got a lot of stares from people who wondered who I was when I walked around the shared areas. But several started up conversations to find out and once they knew who I was and why I was there welcomed me and were very friendly. Most of Sam's neighbours remembered Hapi from when she lived there before and were glad to see her back, as Hiro is inclined to howl when left alone and they all thought Hapi being there would put an end to that, even if only temporarily.

I do hope Hiro is not doubly disappointed when Hapi and I leave more or less permanently.

There was a community dinner while I was there which I attended with Sam. It was in honour of a renter who was leaving and there were several short speeches by residents wanting to acknowledge how much they had enjoyed this renter's presence in the community.

One resident told me there were 90 members, of which 30 were children. Sam didn't think there were that many children. It is certainly a space designed for families as well as single people. There are quite a lot of older people there who like it as an "aging in place" kind of community.

The building layout is one central hub with two wings of residences. The hallways in the wings have glass roofs so the lighting is all daylight, with a few "street lamps" at night. The hallways are called "atriums" and are quite wide, like small streets. Many people have chairs, couches and tables in the area by their front doors, so it does give the impression of a friendly neighbourhood street.

When kids are playing in the atrium the echoiness of it makes the noise quite loud but they are fairly strict about quiet in the evening. In addition the building is on 5 acres of land, half of which is left wild, mostly an unmowed grassy area with a stream running through it, and the rest is lawn and garden. There is a good sized allotment garden for residents where many people grow vegetables.

There is underground parking and workshops on the basement level. In the central hub area are a children's indoor play area, a common kitchen-dining-meeting area, several studio areas for art and dance, a guest suite, a TV room, a common laundry room and large lobby area with nice plants and comfy old furniture. and of course the requisite community notice board.

Dogs are supposed to be leashed but apparently I was the only one following the rule (and I wasn't even aware that it was the rule, I was just doing it out of caution). I gather this is a bit of a bone of contention between dog-owning and non-dog-owning residents. Like any community there are ongoing dramas and issues, but the general ambiance seems friendly and relaxed. If I could afford to buy into such a community I certainly would consider it. Sam would like that, if only to keep the two dogs together.

Today I am at a friend's place trying to work out schedules for visiting with family and old friends. It's a bit tough, I am trying to fit into my friends' schedules and just when I think I have it all worked out, someone changes their own schedule and that has ripple effects all the way down the line. So today I have fired off emails and text messages to all affected and am awaiting replies in order to rework the schedule. I have a month so hopefully it will all work out in the end. My friend is out for the day attending to family business (ailing parents, etc etc) so I am at her home with the cat.

Since the last time I was here (2010) there have been significant renovations, I am staying in the brand-spanking-new guest room cum TV room and I just had a shower in the super-dooper latest and greatest of shower stalls.I had to be shown how to work the controls. I tried it on my own first, but couldn't figure it out.

Before I leave Vancouver I also hope to try the super-dooper bathtub, its controls look a little more straight forward, although they did tell me that it uses up the entire hot water supply to fill it. So one must book its use at a time convenient for all.

And that's it for now.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Heading west and north into long days and short nights

Me and Hapi above Alexandra Falls, NWT
Since last post I have visited friends in Edmonton, spent the Victoria Day long weekend in Hay River NWT with family (Josh, Kim and Eva), and arrived in the lower mainland BC. All pretty much on schedule. Didn't visit brother in Timmins due to snow storm there that I didn't particularly want to drive through. Unfortunately I think I made the right choice, it sounded pretty bad in the news afterward. As it was I did hit snow on the alternate route I took, but not significant amounts on the road. Just kind of miserable.

I found nice places to stop overnight, once on a snowy beach on Lake Superior, once on a lake near the Ontario-Manitoba border, and once in a park-like area in a valley in Saskatchewan. The first night on Lake Superior was the only really cold night, about -5C, but I had enough warm bedding to get through the night comfortably. There was a rime of frost inside and out of the whole truck in the morning. I stayed with friends in Edmonton, and they in turn gave me the address of a relative halfway to Hay River where I stayed the following night.

Saw a turkey buzzard, snow geese, three black bears, either two beavers or one beaver twice, numerous deer, some elk, caribou and mountain sheep?/goats? Hapi chased the beaver but they were close to their waterway and slipped into the water before she was anywhere close. Happened twice in on the same creek, which is why I don't know if it was the same individual or not.

On the road from Edmonton to Hay River the scenery gradually changes from large flat fields to forest to muskeg-like terrain. In the last part there was lots of waterways, and almost every body of water contained a beaver dam and/or lodge(s). I bet that entire landscape is created by the beaver. Some of the lodges were huge, at least one I saw was half the size of my own home. One place had four of them in a row, no more than 8 feet apart.

Two of the bears I saw were just sitting on the side of the road, watching the cars go by. A car in front of me stopped at the first bear, presumably to take a picture, and the car occupants and bear just looked at each other for several minutes. I debated whether to wait or pass, and then the car finally pulled forward. The bear waited. I could have stopped and exchanged stares with him too, but wasn't sure why I would want to do that. So I drove on. The second bear was not as interested in staring, it ambled off into the forest when the car ahead of me slowed down.

Hay River is not the prettiest town, definitely not a tourist destination. Most people bypass the town and keep driving to Yellowknife. Hay River is more of a frontier working town, the terminus of the railroad where supplies and equipment are off-loaded onto barges to cross Great Slave Lake and go north down the Mackenzie River. The river is open to barge traffic all summer all the way to the Arctic Ocean. The lake is not yet clear of ice so the barges are all lined up in the port waiting for that momentous occasion.

My son and his family live in the old Hay River townsite. Back in the '60s that area flooded badly and people were encourage to move to higher ground, but a few stayed and after a while others moved in as well, so it is a regular neighbourhood now, it's just that the town powers-that-be would prefer all those people to move elsewhere. As it is they are required to have their homes up off the ground a minimum distance and many houses appear to be sitting on jacks. My son's home is a trailer raised about 5 feet from the ground. His home is so well insulated that his heating bill last winter was actually lower than mine. Windows are all triple-glazed.

There are no sewer or water pipes in that neighbourhood so their water tank is filled several times a week and their sewage tank emptied once or twice a week. The water tank sits in an alcove off the hallway and is made of translucent plastic so you can tell at a glance how much water remains. One day I was there we were not running the washing machine or dishwasher, and flushing the toilet sparingly because the tank was low. Since a water delivery was scheduled for the next day they didn't want to order an extra delivery.

The first full day I was there Josh booked a Cessna (named "Snoopy") at work to take us all for a little flight. We flew over a waterfall (Alexandra Falls on the Hay River) I had seen on the trip to their place, it was fairly spectacular.

Here is that waterfall viewed up close on the ground. Lotta lotta water! We visited there the next day and the photo of me at the beginning of this post was taken then.

We flew over the new town and the old town, we saw their house from the air (recognizable by the trampoline out front).

Hay River (new town) proper. 
The airport, the railroad terminus and the old town site would all be off to the far left of this photo.
Hay River old town, can you see the trampoline? 
Hint, upper left quadrant, third lot in on first road running up/down in photo
We did a couple of shopping trips in the main town so I got "the tour" (here's where I work, there's the firehall, this is the grocery store, over there is the high school...) and once Kim and I drove through the reserve since she had never been there and of course neither had I. What can I say, it looked like a reserve.

Every evening we took the two dogs, my dog Hapi and their shih-tsu Brewster for a walk in the neighbourhood and over to a vacant field where they could be let offleash. Brewster was initially excited to have a new doggy playmate but when Hapi responded to Brewster's invitations to play he was quickly overwhelmed. Having an 80-lb malamute leaping over him and growling in his face (a play growl) was not quite his idea of play. After that they were content to share space but not attempt to play with each other.

I was in Hay River for the Victoria Day long weekend, and met Josh's boss at the airport as well as the chief pilot and his wife. We had dinner with them and in the course of various activities that weekend met several other friends and acquaintances. My overall impression of the town was that it is a pretty typical working frontier town and the community is fairly friendly. Not a beautiful place but kind of interesting. People hunt and fish and work hard. No shortage of jobs or work. The evening the other pilot and his wife came by was marked by a big homemade lasagna dinner and a few beers and the sharing of local gossip. We were going to do a fish fry, but the local fisherman had nothing on hand as they were between seasons.

I never saw darkness there. It is not quite the time of year when there is no night at all, but we never stayed up late enough to see the dark and it only would have lasted a short time before it became light again. Judging by the local hardware store, people were just gearing up for spring planting of flowers and vegetables. Lawns were still brown and there was still some snow lying about, but it was warm and spring was definitely in the air.

We went to the beach on Great Slave Lake on a lovely warm sunny day; we had to cross the snowdrifts in sandals and flipflops to get to the sand and beyond about thirty feet of open water was the ice. The lake was still frozen.  Great Slave is huge, at least as big as any of the Great Lakes in the east. Hapi waded in but the rest of us were happy to just sit on the sand and enjoy the warm sun. Brewster loves snow so while Hapi waded and we sunbathed, he ran around in the snow. To each his own.

See the ice on the lake in the background?
Hapi relaxing on the beach :)
Hapi picked up a few ticks on the trip and a lot in Hay River. Every day I was picking a half dozen or so out of her ears and around her face. Ticks there are called winter ticks and they do not carry lyme disease. Their primary host is caribou. I was still picking them off her when we got to Vancouver, by that time they had been on her several days and were gigantic, easy to see and quite gross to pick off. Lots of blood involved. I think we got them all, she now has a lot of bloody scabs where they used to be.

I had a slow leak in one tire that I first noticed near Sault Ste Marie in northern Ontario. I needed to get air in it every morning and that would last until the next morning. I just didn't want to stop long enough to get it fixed, due to my tight driving schedule. When I arrived in Hay River Josh told me there was a shortage of air in there, I would not be able to get the tire filled at any gas station, but there might be air at the airport. So I bought a cheap compressor and filled the tire with that, but after only one fill-up it conked out. You get what you pay for.

The morning I left I stopped at the local tire shop to see if they could repair the tire quickly, they could and did but in the process discovered that my tire rim was in dire shape and unsafe to drive on. So they put my spare wheel on instead and advised me to get all the rims looked at and replaced as soon as possible.

I continued on to Vancouver, getting the wheels checked at a tire shop in High Level Alberta as instructed. No problems there so I have only occasionally kicked the tires to see if they are wobbly or not. So far so good but I will definitely get the matter attended to before leaving Vancouver for home.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Changes, minor and otherwise

A few mishaps, minor and not so minor. Exhaust system needed attention in PEI, one hour and $50 which is minor, I think. Uneventful trip from PEI to Toronto and a great visit in the city. I love the old neighbourhood and it was really nice to be back. Hapi was on her best behaviour, did really well with the dogs in the dog park. She had one brief set-to with Dobby, her host, but after that they got along fine.

I visited with some old friends, did a bit of shopping, saw a movie and hung out with the kids and grandkids.

Then today I was going to leave early to drive to Timmins. Hapi had a seizure. Out of the blue, never happened before, and scared the daylights out of me. I think it scared her pretty bad too.

So I decided to stay over one more day which meant I couldn't spare the time to see my brother in Timmins. Unfortunate but I just didn't feel good leaving not knowing what Hapi's health status was. Called a vet who said there really wasn't much to do, that generally they don't treat a single seizure because it is too hard to know what caused it.

Later in the day I spoke to a dog owner of an epileptic dog and she told me there was little point taking my dog to a vet unless she seized frequently.

By now I feel better about it and that I can probably handle this. Worst comes to worst and we'll change our travel plans but chances are good that nothing at all will happen. So I plan to leave first thing tomorrow. Hapi seems back to normal.

We have 4 days to get to Edmonton, it will be a bit tight.

Friday, May 3, 2013

My itinerary

May 3: Fanning Brook, PE
May 6: Toronto, ON
May 11: Timmins, ON
May 15: Edmonton, AB
May 17: Hay River, NT
May 23: Langley, BC

All assuming I get out the door today.

Packing seems endless. I am sure I will forget something important.

Dog is terribly nervous. She doesn't know she is coming with.