Monthly Archives: June 2018


Eels Lake is beautiful in the morning sun. I was up early to sit on the dock and watch the mist rise off the glassy surface of the lake. The island across the way stands sentinel to the silence.

Surprisingly I was up before Paul but he might have heard me trying to figure out his coffee maker because it wasn’t long before he was bringing me a cup. Buster was the last to get up. He loves Eels Lake and had spent a lot of time reacquainting himself with the beach and the bushes yesterday so I guess he needed a bit more sleep.

I was itching to check up on Dad and Mom so packed up the car and headed into Bancroft early. Mom was looking good – all tanned and relaxed. She loves to sit in the sun on her side porch and does it a lot. I have never been able to do that. I just turn into a beet and then peel like an onion. It’s not fair.

I visited Dad in the nursing home – he’s sleeping a lot these days and I am not sure he knew me. They are keeping him as comfortable as possible there and Mom spends her afternoons at his side.

She knew we were anxious to get home so encouraged us to get on our way before the traffic got too bad. So we did.

And now we are HOME! We did it Buster! We put well over 12,000 kilometres on the car – the odometer clicked over the 100,000 mark somewhere between Wisconsin and Michigan. We had adventures. We had a fair amount of rain but also quite a bit of sunshine. It was never stinking hot but we did have a couple of mosquito moments when I just had to wear my bug jacket. Buster did get sick but he got over it. The scenery was spectacular. And I feel like we have only just seen the tip of the iceberg. There is so much more to do and see!

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Chapleau to Eels Lake

We woke to a cold morning. Buster was shivering so much I had to put his sweater back on. But the sun was shining and there were very few clouds in the sky. Carla had drawn a map of a shortcut to Sudbury that followed a gravel road for about 100 km but it cuts out an hour and a half from the trip so I figured a dirty car was worth it.

After a lovely breakfast looking out over the lake we packed up and headed out. Carla’s map was easy to follow and we made really good time. We had lunch in Chelmsford (just north of Sudbury) and then headed south.

I haven’t seen Marg Torrance in quite a while (we worked together for years and she retired to live in Parry Sound) so we dropped in when we got to her neck of the woods. Our timing was perfect because her daughter Anne was there with her partner Vicki and their 6 week old identical twin boys – Henry and Owen. They are absolutely beautiful (if you are allowed to say that about boys). It was a great visit. Anne and Vicki are lucky to have Marg and Ron so close because they have their hands full and Grandma is a mighty big help.

Before long Bus and I were back on the road headed for Eels Lake. Paul and Joey were ready to take in a couple of dusty travellers. They greeted us with an amazing supper of salmon fillets stuffed with crab and shrimp and rice, along with some wonderful stuffed peppers and fresh beans. We washed it all down with some lovely wine then retired to the bonfire with a good Scotch.

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North to Chapleau

Got up early Sunday morning and Bus and I were on the road before 7 am. I picked up some breakfast at MacDonalds and found a spot down the road a ways to stop and feed Bus his breakfast. It was pretty cool and cloudy so Buster got to wear his sweater. That sweater is starting to look a little worse for wear these days. He has had to wear it quite often on this trip.

The drive to Carla’s camp just south of Chapleau was really nice. I do love northern Ontario. We’ve run the full gamut of scenery on this trip but I still love the northern Ontario wilderness.

Camp Moray was a beautiful place. The yard was full of wild purple lupins, devil’s paintbrushes and daisies that just glowed in the sun when it finally decided to come out. It got so warm that Buster was even able to take off his sweater.

Carla’s grandson Liam took me on his newly bushwacked trail to his family camp and then we took a canoe out to check his fort on the island, Carla following in a kayak. It is a pretty little lake with just a half dozen camps. They have all been there for years – a small and supportive community. It reminds me of the Eels Lake crowd.

Carla served up a wonderful batch of spaghetti and then we played a few rounds of Crazy Eights. I haven’t played that in years.

Bus and I slept like babies in the glorious silence of the northern bush.

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Minnesota to Sault Ste Marie

The Quality Inn served one of the better ‘free’ breakfasts of all the hotels on this trip. We were on the road by 9, full of gas and another bag of ice for the cooler.

Today was a day of driving and driving and driving. I really wanted to get to Canada at the very least, if not Chapleau. We travelled through three states – Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan. The scenery wasn’t spectacular but it had its moments. Mainly we passed through gently rolling hills with corn and hay fields. But the part of Michigan we saw – following the west side of the big lake – was actually very scenic.

We finally got to Sault Ste Marie – no hassles crossing the border – but it was after 10 pm. Every hotel I stopped at was full. What is going on here? It is a Saturday night but is this a special Saturday?

Finally the fellow at the Howard Johnson’s took pity on me and gave me a staff room cuz I had my own towel and sleeping bag. He didn’t want me to drive any further. I guess I must have looked pretty tired.

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Mount Rushmore, SD to Fairmont, MN

I must say that sleeping on the ground (on an air mattress, of course) is good for me. I sleep really well and so does Bus. Course he sleeps well pretty much anywhere.

They had a pancake tent at the KOA campground so Bus and I checked it out. For $3.50 you can get a stack of three substantial pancakes. Course their syrup is not proper maple syrup but the deal was pretty good anyway.

We were on the road towards Mount Rushmore by 8:30 so parking was no issue at all. Luckily they have a parking garage because Bus was not allowed to join me on the walk to the monument. He didn’t complain about having to sleep in the car while I went exploring.

Gutzon Borglum and his son Lincoln directed the work on this sculpture that was completed in 1941. It is very impressive. There are a set of plaques by the museum’s windows that look out on the sculpture that contain some interesting tidbits of information. The original plan had Jefferson as the first on the left side but that didn’t work out so Washington ended up on the left. Jefferson’s face has a crack running down the right side. Roosevelt was sculpted with a groove under his right eye which suggests the monocle he always wore. And Lincoln was sculpted with a beard though Borglum was asked to make him clean-shaven. The eyes are all especially compelling. They were achieved by making deep cuts and leaving a central post as the iris with a polished end to reflect the sun more and give the eyes a glint.

Bus and I were eager to hit the road and see how far we could go today. It’s surprising how far we have left to travel. After we left Mount Rushmore the landscape eventually smoothed out into flat plains that went on for miles and miles.

We passed through areas of Badlands (like in Alberta) complete with dinosaur statues and then over the Lewis-Clark trail where we found this beautiful statue at a rest stop.

We haven’t had wifi for three days and my blog was at a standstill. Even my cell service had been very spotty. I know that a few people were concerned and I even got a call from Jim and Lori when I was at Mount Rushmore. But not to worry. We made it to Minnesota and are at a Quality Inn with wifi. So now the blog is up-to-date.

I am heading to Chapleau north of the Sault but am not sure I will be able to make it there tomorrow since I really don’t push it if I get tired. So maybe it will be Sunday.

Anyway, I should be back in Guelph next week. I’ll keep you posted.

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Wyoming to South Dakota

As I savoured the wonderful spinach and mushroom omelette whipped up by the ranch cook Sergei, and gazed out at some of the beautiful horses in the paddock with the first sun in days streaming down on them I thought I had died and gone to heaven. I had slept like a log in a bed that you seem to just sink into. I had had a lovely hot shower and strolled the grounds with Buster in the early sun.

Sam gave me the history of the name UXU. It seems that back in the 1930’s a couple had bought the land and started a dude ranch but the marriage didn’t last. In a very acrimonious split she moved up the road and started a competing dude ranch. The husband then set up a sign at the highway saying U Bitch U so that every time she drove down the road to Cody for supplies she would see the sign. The ranch is in the National Shoshone Park and the rangers didn’t like the word Bitch on the highway so they put a big X through it. And so the name UXU was born … It’s a great story and it seems to fit the place. The current owner looks kinda like Boss Hog but seems to be somewhat less ornery.

I would love to go there with a group of friends and do the trail riding experience. It would be incredible.

We settled our bill and headed on down that scenic Highway 16 towards South Dakota. It followed the Shoshone River for a while and then later after passing the town of Ten Sleep we followed the Ten Sleep River. It seems the name originates from the native groups that travelled through the area. It was a rest stop 10 days travel from the Fort Laramie trading post.

We travelled through mountainous terrain that smoothed out into rolling hills and then by the time we hit South Dakota we were back into more mountainous terrain.

We arrived at the Crazy Horse Memorial park around 5 pm. I thought we might be too late to see it but they are open quite late and end the day with a laser show on the mountainside. They had no issue with Buster in his carrier going through the museum and even into the theatre to watch the fascinating story of the birth of this beautiful monument. Two men are at the heart of this story – Henry Standing Bear, a Lakota Chief and a sculptor who had worked on Mount Rushmore – Korczak Ziolkowski. Standing Bear approached Ziolkowski with the idea because he felt his people needed to be honoured as much as the Mount Rushmore presidents. Korczak came up with the design and began work in 1947. He had ten children and he put all of them, along with his wife to work on carving the mountainside. He and his wife have both passed away now but the children are still working on completing the sculpture.

A bit further along the road was a KOA campground and so we actually set up the tent for the night. We found ourselves midst a huge contingent of campers in multiple variations of RV’s along with a lesser group of tenters. This is my first experience at a KOA campground. It even had a liquor store (yeah!) and a laundry (yeah!) and showers (yeah!yeah!)

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Old Faithful and a Dude Ranch

Sleeping in the back of the RAV4 doesn’t always work well. The campsite was perfectly nice, the washrooms were handy, and they even had showers but the rain discouraged me from setting up the tent. I think I would have slept better on the ground but I didn’t want to pack up a wet tent so we did the RAV4 thing again. I was pretty tired when we headed out to see Old Faithful.

We got there around 9 am and the crowds hadn’t grown too large yet. There is a boardwalk that circumnavigates Old Faithful and a number of other geysers and hot springs. When you walk around it you feel like you are in some strange science-fiction film. The hot steam and sulphuric smells surround you. There was a sign at the entrance indicating a dog on a leash with a big X through it so I put Bus in my little front carrier and set out. About 2/3 of the way around a grumpy man yelled at me saying that dogs aren’t allowed on the walkway. I pointed out that Buster was not on the walkway but in a carrier but he was not appeased and told me we had to leave. So I actually did complete the full circuit but a lot sooner than I had intended. It put a damper on the visit. I don’t understand why he didn’t just come over and speak reasonably to me. Why is it that some people like to be officious? Is that the bully mentality?

We left Old Faithful and drove up the western side of Yellowstone Park following a route that can take a loop across to the eastern side then back down towards the campground where I had booked a second night. The sun would come out, then rain, then sun off and on all day.

As we drove north along the western side we encountered a traffic block. A grizzly had been sighted near the road and cars were lined up on both sides with people wandering about trying to see. Not the smartest move. It took forever to get through that spot and I never even glimpsed the object of all this attention.

I did see a few elk along the way and a number of bison. They flourish in this old park – touted as the first national park in the world. It was established in 1872 under Ulysses Grant. I don’t know what the back country of the park would be like but following the highways is far worse than following Highway 60 in Algonquin. There must have been thousands of people there even though this was the middle of the week and school isn’t even out yet. I preferred the east side – not quite as many people but still popular. There is a really cute museum at Fishing Bridge that I highly recommend. The rangers there are very friendly. In the other more popular visitor centres the rangers don’t come across as friendly but they are inundated by the tourists.

One thing I noticed was the number of burnt-out areas along the eastern route. They must see their fair share of fires.

At Fishing Bridge I decided we had had our fill of Yellowstone. It was very beautiful but way too populated so I decided not to go back to the campground even though we had paid for another night. Instead we headed for the east gate of the park and out into the incredible Wyoming landscape.

The beauty of this part of the world is mind-boggling. We drove slowly round the curves and peered over cliffs into deep valleys with rushing streams stopping at many of the pullouts to take pictures. I started seeing signs for dude ranches and thought why not? I needed a good sleep. Besides it looked like rain again and I didn’t want to sleep in the car. So I pulled into the UXU ranch.

What an incredible place! Two hundred horses, nine log cabins for guests, a log lounge/bar/restaurant with a lovely patio deck looking out towards the paddock. To get there you cross a wooden slat bridge over the raging Shoshone River – a bit of a stomach churner. The cabin had a truly comfortable bed and a modern bathroom. Bus and I were put up in the Sundance Kid cabin.

I met a woman from Wales who rides to foxes back home but had spent a full day out on a trail ride and just loved the Western style of riding. They saw a moose, a grizzly and a lot of elk. She was ecstatic.

The place as not cheap but I am so glad we stayed there.

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Missoula to Yellowstone

Yesterday we ran the gamut of landscapes from mountains to valley plateaus to desert-like hills to rolling hills. Today we left the mountains into range-land plateaus then right back into the mountains. Despite the rain the scenery has been spectacular. We’ve seen a lot of eagles – in fact one swooped down low over the car just as we were leaving Missoula. And what I thought were osprey nests atop tall platforms are actually eagle nests. I should have realized that by the size of the nests. Today I actually saw some eagles in them. There is no mistaking the bald eagle. (Did you know they are called bald from the old English word balde meaning white?)

We saw quite a few deer today as well – some of those antelope-like ones out in a field and a couple of white-tailed deer (or maybe elk) in Yellowstone.

We passed through an area where an earthquake caused the side of a mountain to crumble and fall into a lake – effectively changing its shape and taking 26 lives with it. The lake is now called Earthquake Lake.

We had lunch in a Banff-like town called West Yellowstone just on the outskirts of the famous park. As we entered the park an attendant about my own age tried to get me the senior’s discount until I pointed out that I was Canadian. It doesn’t apply to us Canadians. He then told me he had considered moving to Canada during the Vietnam era and is now considering it again.

Yellowstone is gorgeous! I took a few side trails in my drive towards the Grant Village campgrounds. Even though it is still June and schools aren’t out, the park is busy. I can’t imagine what it will be like in a few weeks. I gave up trying to find parking near one of the geyser trails. I didn’t even try to go to Old Faithful. I was lucky enough to get a campsite so will head back to Old Faithful in the morning. I should have better luck if I’m early.

Since the rain is still doing its thing and the temperature has dropped I decided not to put up the tent. Bus and I will sleep in the back of the car tonight.

One thing I have noticed is that the air in my air mattress has expanded. I guess it is the altitude since we are back up in the mountains again.

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Missoula, Montana – Monday June 18th

I finished reading this great book that I had downloaded from the Guelph Public Library – Late Nights on Air by Elizabeth Hay. It is centered on a group of people who worked at a CBC radio station in Yellowknife in the early seventies. I really enjoyed it – maybe cuz I’ve been to Yellowknife and recognized a lot of the places it mentions but also because it is really well written. I was sad to finish it. But I have also had an audiobook on the go while I’ve been driving that I have really enjoyed – The Theory of Death by Faye Kellerman. I just love that I can borrow these books as I travel.

So we were up early (as usual) and by 8:30 we were packed up, Bus and I had eaten our breakfasts and were on the road again. Probably the mosquitoes had a lot to do with our swift departure.

I thought maybe we would see a lot of animals along the way today since we were way up in the mountains but we really didn’t see many – one deer off in a field and another lying dead beside the road was about it.

I checked the maps and signs as we left the park and found that we had been staying in Wenatchee National Forest. The area was beautiful with fast flowing creeks following the winding roads. At one point we drove through a section that had had a fire in the past year or so. It had mostly devastated the trees on the one side of the road on the far side of a rushing river.

We also went through Leavenworth (I always thought that was a prison). It was like being in Bavaria. I thought I was in Oberammergau (Germany) again. Further on down the highway the mountains softened into a wide plateau filled with fields of hay.

I thought I was following Highway 2 towards Spokane but must have taken a branch to the left when I should have gone right. It turned out to be a good mistake because we drove through an area of almost desert-like conditions – dry bushes and barren hills following a large body of water – that was starkly beautiful and lead us to Grand Coulee with its giant dam. I even took a selfie there.

We were easily able to get back down to Highway 2 and off towards Spokane where we caught the I-90. I expected the big highway would be somewhat boring after Highway 2 but it took us back into the mountains as we made our way to Missoula. By then it was close to 6 pm, the rain had set in again, and my neck was getting stiff. So we are now set up in a Days Inn for the night. I can have a shower!

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Father’s Day – heading homeward via U.S.

Saturday was spent organizing for takeoff and filling Sek in on my island visits. Bus was happy to be back in Brooke’s place and headed straight for his favourite rug. I got my laundry done and called Rogers to make sure I would have phone coverage in the States. It seems the $7 a day Roam Like Home thing kicks in automatically. When you think about it, it isn’t really a deal but it is kinda hassle-free – or at least I thought it was.

We took off by around 9:30 Sunday morning in bright sunshine and a promise of hot weather. At the U.S. border a very young, very stern-faced fellow asked me for my passport. He took a good look at Buster and I and waved us on. He didn’t even want to see Buster’s papers. So off we went down Highway 5 towards Seattle. That’s when my phone’s GPS quit working. Damn! I was afraid of that.

My mission now was to buy maps and figure out the route because I hadn’t paid close enough attention when I checked it on my phone in Vancouver. You would think gas stations would carry state maps – NOT! Eventually I found a sporting goods/hunting/fishing store and got Washington and Idaho State maps.

Meanwhile the highway had slowed to a crawl. I guess everyone had gone away for Father’s Day weekend and were now headed back to Seattle. Another stop to check my maps where I found a smaller highway south – Highway 9 – but even that one was slow. So I headed east on Highway 2 (I would have to go east eventually anyway) and pulled over in Monroe at a cute little cafe. Across the way was a very pretty lake with a number of kayaks paddling up and down. I was starved and I had to check my maps. The young woman running the place suggested I stick to the scenic Highway 2 since it goes through the mountains via Stephen’s Pass and was her favourite route. She thought it might be a bit longer but was well worth it. I picked her brains about my failed GPS and between the two of us figured that I needed to turn on data roaming.

So now I have my GPS working again. Thank goodness!

She was right about this scenic route. It is lovely with beautiful towering mountains and rushing streams. I decided to grab a campground by 5 pm and settle in for the night. I think Bus was just as happy too. We are camped right beside a stream – reminds me of Merrit, B.C. There are no lovely showers at this campground though. The place is called Thousand Trails but I can’t find it on the map. I don’t think we came very far today. One thing about this campground – the mosquitoes are really thick.

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Nanaimo to Vancouver via Victoria

Friday morning and it was time to pack up and head out again. It was sad to say goodbye but we will be back.

My niece Stephanie’s graduation ceremony from University of Victoria was Friday morning and she had invited me to join her for lunch afterwards. For a change the sun was shining and the drive south was quite pretty. About halfway to Victoria it hit me that I had done it again – I left Buster’s food and water dishes behind. This is getting to be a habit.

Got to Victoria and found underground public parking but as I circled the levels all the empty stalls were marked with a reserve sign. I headed for the exit and saw a fellow moving a couple of pylons out of the way so he could park. As I drew near he moved aside another couple of pylons and told me to go ahead and take the spot beside his. He mumbled something about the parking attendant would be mad but he would deal with him. OK!

Bus and I checked out the nearby streets and found a flower shop where I was able to pick up some roses for Steph. Bus wasn’t in the mood for much walking so I took him back to the car and left him to nap on the back seat.

The restaurant was just across the street – Nautical Nellie’s – a seafaring joint. I was early so was well into a local beer when Steph arrived. She was her bubbly self – looking spectacular with a new haircut and highlights. She has a lot to be proud about. Joining us was her friend Autumn and Autumn’s grandmother, her mom Norma and her partner Bill. Autumn had just graduated from nursing and was her year’s valedictorian. We toasted the girls with champaign and dug into some great seafood.

Bus was glad to see me when I finally went back to the car. We headed out of the city with a quick stop at a huge sports park so Bus could check out the bushes. We got to Sidney – right near where you catch the ferry to Vancouver – in time to pick up some new food dishes for Buster from the local Dollerama. We had a bit of time so wandered around the Fish Market by the Sidney waterfront. What a beautiful spot!

Now we are on the ferry and should be at Sekyiwa’s quite late. I hope I don’t have to wake her up…

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Nanaimo and Comox

Bus and I settled into this beautiful little community of Nanaimo quite easily. Roy pointed out a nice walk and we did that two or three times a day circling a block encompassing their strata complex and a section of detached homes near the Oliver Woods Community Centre. The centre itself has a gym where we passed a steady stream of pickleballers, a beautiful playground, a wooded area complete with a natural duck pond and hiking trails, and an outdoor exercise facility.

I helped Alixe set up some screening to protect her blueberry bushes from hungry birds. In the evening I saw a deer stroll by checking out her strawberries and a rabbit who looked like he was not suffering any hunger pangs. I watched an eagle soar overhead one morning and Alixe wasn’t even amazed.

On Wednesday Alixe and I took a trip to Comox to visit Dan Strickland who has been here studying the grey jay population, capturing and banding the young ones and collecting blood samples. The rain worked to our advantage that day and kept him from heading up the mountain so we were able to visit for an hour while Roy enjoyed some Respite time with a lovely young woman named Danielle.

Comox was particularly nice – a quaint town with a nearby Canadian Forces Base. Dan has been coming here for months on end to do his studies of the grey jay (Canada Jay?) for a few years now and stays in a gorgeous cottage-like place within walking distance of town that he found on VRBO. Right now he has a grad student with him though we didn’t meet the student. Our visit was short but Alixe and I enjoyed ourselves.

When we got back we took Roy to one of his favourite restaurants where we had a delicious meal then headed over to visit Joyce and Per – friends that I have met on previous visits to Nanaimo. Per had just had a birthday so we helped eat his delicious chocolate birthday cake.

And that night I happened to discover a couple of completely engorged ticks on Buster. Alixe and I performed some minor day surgery and removed them carefully with tweezers. Bus was not impressed by the procedure. I’m wondering how long those things have been on him. Do they go back to when he was first sick in Alberta?

Thursday morning I joined Alixe and a large contingent of women who put together a nutritious community lunch at the St. Andrews Presbyterian church. We diced vegetables for a huge soup and constructed 22 loaves worth of ham and cheese sandwiches. These women have been doing this on a regular basis and they have it down pat. I just did as I was told and before I knew it I was part of an assembly line. There are numerous rules around food preparation that have to be followed and these women gently taught me the proper way. It was both fun and enlightening.

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Tuesday – On the Road Again

Bus had his first ferry ride as we headed for Nanaimo from beautiful Horseshoe Bay north of Vancouver. The day was grey again, threatening rain, but not too cold so we were able to stand on the car deck for a bit until I was told it wasn’t allowed. I was able to fit in another selfie. I’m really not very good at it. After being banned from the car deck Bus ended up in the back seat having a nap while I headed up to the passenger lounge.

We made our way to Alixe’s lovely strata home in the north end of Nanaimo as the rain set in. The car in front of me on the ferry was a beautiful golden 1968 Pontiac Firebird convertible and we followed him into the city for quite a ways. I watched the driver’s increasing agitation with the raindrops. Then he turned off in another direction and I can only suppose that he was in a panic to get the top up.

Bus was fascinated by Bella’s cat food when we got settled into Alixe and Roy’s place. Bella was not impressed with this interloper. They seem to have settled into a guarded truce though if Bus wanders too close Bella lets out either a menacing hiss or a warning moan. I’m not sure Buster understands the rules yet.

Alixe and I talked into the late hours getting caught up. Wednesday we will take a trip to Comox to check on Dan Strickland.

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Monday – Two days of sun

The last couple of days has had weather more like what I’ve had on my other trips here – more sun than clouds. So Sek, Matt and I did an 18 hole round of Pitch ‘N Putt. I wasn’t great at it but I tried to put to practice some of the golfing lessons I took before I left Guelph. It was actually a lot of fun. Bus didn’t even know we had gone. He slept the whole time on his favourite rug in Brooke’s apartment.

For supper Sek took me to a Pho place that was really good. The bowls of soup were huge and even I couldn’t finish it.

Today (Monday) Sek had a few appointments so I headed for the Museum of Anthropology on the UBC campus. I really love that place. I went there with Mom a couple of years ago and that just whetted my appetite. I took two tours – one inside and one outside. The tour guide was a dynamic woman named Shiela. She was very knowledgeable and was able to grab our interest from the get-go. Some people have a real talent for telling a story. If you get to Vancouver you really have to check out this museum.

Outside they have a replica of part of a Haida village complete with shoreline and samples of the various kinds of totem poles – memorial, mortuary, doorway and inside poles.

Tomorrow Bus and I will take the ferry to Nanaimo. And the adventure continues…

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Saturday – First day with some sun

We’ve been moving slowly the last few days. I guess Bus and I needed some real down time and the weather has made it easier to mostly just hole up. Sek is between movies so has some time off but she hasn’t been feeling well either. It has given us lots of time to just chat and chill. We did facial masks the other night. Sek is a master at the craft of skincare and has talked me into doing regular facial masks.

Yesterday midst a particularly rainy day we hit some of her favourite stores and I loaded up on skin products and picked up a couple of things at her regular consignment stores.

She has taken me to some really great places to eat. Vancouver must be a gourmet’s delight. The food here is incredible. Last night we met Leah in a Thai restaurant. The green curry I had was delicious!

Today the plan is to meet Amelia for brunch. Already a black cloud is moving in. At least Bus and I were able to have a nice walk while the sun lasted. …

So we met up with Amelia and had a  wonderful catch-up along with a delicious brunch.  Amelia and her husband Chris have bought a little place near Matt’s apartment that needed a complete overhaul.  I got a chance to check it out.  They have put together a set of ingenious plans for the renovations.  Between their creativity and skills they will end up with a dream home.


Later Sek, Matt and I checked out an apartment in the Olympic Village.  They plan to move in together so need something that is close enough for Matt to walk or ride his bike to work and central enough for Sek and her work.  It turned out to be a co-op building with lots of paperwork to fill out.  It has some distinct advantages but they are still looking.

Sek, Amelia and I rounded out the evening with the new movie – Oceans 8.  A fun chick flick.  We re-emerged from the theatre into a downpour.  I guess that’s pretty normal on the west coast.

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Quiet day in Vancouver

It’s a bit of a grey day here so we are moving slowly. It is nice to know that I don’t have to pack up to leave. Not for a week anyway.

I took my car in to get the oil changed by Sek’s favourite guy a few blocks away and then we headed up the way to her mani-pedi place. She had seen the state of my feet and suggested I needed some repairs. I resisted as much as it is possible to resist Sekyiwa but, of course, she won. It was worth it. Her people are great and they put me in a chair that massaged my back while they worked on my feet. It actually was really nice but I drew the line at a mani. Sek had both and we left the place feeling like a pair of queens.

Sekyiwa threw together a Greek salad back at the apartment that hit the spot and we reminisced about all sorts of things. Definitely a different pace than Bus and I have been used to for the last couple of weeks. His constitution is back almost to normal now. I think he is appreciating the down time.

Sek and I FaceTimed Jasmine showing off our new feet and getting caught up on what’s happening in Hamilton. Meanwhile Bus warmed up his favourite rug.

Sek took me to a wonderful Italian restaurant for a late supper – Osteria Savio Volpe. I had the best kale salad I have ever eaten. Sekyiwa was given the recipe the last time she celebrated her birthday there and because she loves her mom she’ll share it.

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Day Fifteen – June 5th – made it to Vancouver

We woke to a cold morning in Merritt so didn’t waste any time packing up. The Coldwater River that rushes by the campsite is aptly named. Luckily I didn’t have to depend on the river to clean up. The campground had good showers so Bus waited patiently for me in the car and then we headed back to the Espresso Cafe in town. I had a great breakfast and talk with a couple of local gents. One of them was originally from Ontario but had come west while young and never moved back home. They were very entertaining and even offered to take a picture of Bus and I in front of the Cafe.

Today I decided to take the faster route to Vancouver – down the Coquihalla – instead of the scenic Highway 8 (which would have taken at least an extra hour). But the Coquihalla proved scenic with snow-capped mountains and the deep green of the pine-covered slopes.

We made it to Sekyiwa’s around noon. She showed me her lovely apartment. It’s an older building but the apartments are being renovated one by one. Her’s was done just before she moved in. Across the hall is her friend and business partner Brooke’s place. Brooke is away visiting family in the Netherlands so I got her apartment. It is one of those yet to be renovated but it is still quite nice. Bus has decided that the animal skin rug in the living room was laid especially for him.

I finally got to meet Matt. He is every bit as nice as Sekyiwa said and even better looking than his picture. We trekked off to a taco place for late lunch/early supper. I indulged with a delicious margarita. Later back in Brooke’s apartment, Sek and I put poor Matt to sleep while we caught up on Guelph gossip.

The rain was back and none of us were inspired to do anything strenuous so Matt headed home and eventually Sek headed back across the hall.

A quiet end to the first part of Bus and Sue’s adventure.

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Day Fourteen – Clearwater to Merritt

We both had a great sleep so Bus is definitely better. Not only that, the sun was shining! Our room had a kitchenette so I had my breakfast before we headed out. I thought Clearwater was beautiful yesterday but it was better in the sunshine. When I filled up at the local gas station I mentioned to the attendant how lucky he was to live there. He suggested I move to Clearwater and brought out a real estate paper showing a 5 bedroom house for $300,000 and a three bedroom for $200,000. Very tempting.

I headed down the scenic Highway 5 towards Kamloops just as it started raining again. And again, despite the rain, it was a beautiful drive. The road was windy with lakes on one side and mountains on the other. About an hour into the trip we encountered a backup that was not moving at all for at least 30 minutes. Turns out a tractor trailer going in the same direction as us had gone round a bend and right across the highway towards the mountain, jamming his cab between the barriers and the mountainside. I have no idea whether the driver survived but it was quite a mess. After that I made sure to slow down at every curve – probably driving the people behind me crazy.

We saw a lot of birds today – hawks, ospreys and even an immature eagle sitting in a dead tree by the highway. We pulled off to check out a marshland supported by Ducks Unlimited. It was very picturesque.

In Kamloops I used the Tim’s WiFi to find the wineries and we headed down Shuswap Road to Harper’s Trail. Along the way we passed a bighorn sheep grazing by the highway and a cowboy riding through a field. I just love this country.

The people at Harper’s were very accommodating about Bus and set us up on a comfortable lounge outside, bringing me drinks and chatting about dogs and wine – a couple of my favourite topics.

From there we made our way round some dirt roads and across a single-lane bridge over the North Thompson to the Monte Creek Winery. This is also a working farm with goats and cattle and I’m not sure what else. I was told the story about the gentleman train robber – Billy Miner – who had accosted the train right beside where the winery now sits and was the originator of the term ‘Hands Up’ so they say. I had to buy a bottle of Hands Up wine with his picture on it.

On to Merritt where the friendly folks at the Bailie House Info Centre sent me to a wonderful little cafe called Espresso and then on to the private campground called MoonShadow. The sun is out again but it is really windy. I put up the tent and tied it down to a couple of trees. I think we are done with the rain. I just hope we don’t blow away in the night.

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Thirteenth Day on the Road – Valemount to Clearwater

Bus was up a couple of times in the night so I didn’t get a lot of sleep. I’m not sure what he has gotten into but he has some digestive type infection. I remembered that the vet had given me some antibiotics so in the morning I crushed up an antibiotic tablet, mixed in a piece of crushed up Pepto Bismal tablet, some cooked rice, a few pieces of kibble and some warm water. He ate it all up. I think he was hungry.

Before heading out we did a short walk down to the creek that runs behind the houses across the road. It was a lovely spot and the creek was really fast flowing with that lovely sound that fast-flowing creeks make. Bus seems to be on the mend – fingers crossed – he had no more anxious circling moments.

On the road again, heading south on Highway 5A for Clearwater. About a half an hour into the trip I spied a black bear lying in a grassy spot by the road. I squealed to a stop about 50 metres or so past him and grabbed my camera. Somehow I clambered into the backseat, opened the back window and hung out to see if I could catch a shot or two. Meanwhile a few other cars pulled over. The bear was totally oblivious to the hordes of mosquitoes and the gawking humans as he worked at something trapped between his paws. It took me forever to bend my legs and back enough to crawl back into the driver’s seat.

A bit further down the road was a white-tailed deer strolling along the hillside by the highway. He didn’t hang around long enough for me to get a shot.

I was pretty tired by the time I got to Clearwater. There was a busy Tourist Information booth for the Wells Gray Park that extends north of the town. The staff found me a lovely little hotel (it is still raining and I still don’t want to put my tent up in the rain) called the Watauga Village Cabins that is also pet friendly. So Bus and I headed straight there and got settled. I fed him much the same meal as his breakfast (minus the Pepto Bismal) but broke up some of his favourite treats in it. He snarfed that up. I think we may be on the mend.

After I had a wee nap we bundled up in our hiking gear and headed off to explore a few of the falls this area is famous for. We travelled about 35 km into the park checking out three of the falls that were easiest to hike to – Spahats, Dawson and Helmcken. All three were impressive but I’m sure they would have been even prettier if the sun had been shining. The rain didn’t start to really pour until we were leaving the last one – Helmcken – which is much higher than Niagara Falls. The power of all that water is amazing. The area is gorgeous and I would highly recommend any hiker to come spend some time here. There are so many hiking trails and if what we saw is any indication you will be blown away. We even glimpsed another bear ahead of us crossing the road as we drove up to hike into the Dawson Falls. Bus isn’t much of a hiker these days but he has learned to adapt to the front carrier I brought.

At one point along the road into the last falls we checked out we had to drive across a wooden bridge suspended over a raging river. It gave me the willies crossing that bridge!

I was starved when we got back and headed for the Hops N Hog Restaurant. It is a BBQ joint and do they know how to do it! They also do flights of the local beers. I had pulled pork to die for. The place was hopping so I know I wasn’t the only happy customer.

It is only a bit past 7 pm but I think this will be an early night.

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Day Twelve – Mosquito Creek, AB to Valemount, BC

This was the coldest night yet and Buster is not feeling too well. We were up a couple of times in the night for him to get rid of whatever from both ends. The poor little guy. It put a bit of a damper on my day I have to say cuz I was worried about him. The morning was so cold we were getting snow mixed in with the rain.

We quickly got ourselves together and hit the road (no shower at this campground) though it would have been really beautiful if I wasn’t so cold. There was a rushing creek alongside the small campground with trails leading off into the bush in all directions. Maybe another time …

Highway 93 to Jasper is spectacular. There are viewpoints to pull off and check out all along the route. The mountains and their glaciers are breathtaking as are the green lakes they feed. The clouds were thick in the beginning of the drive but the sun was fighting to shine and eventually it won. Slowly the temperatures began to rise. I had started the day wearing a lot of clothes topped off by my rain pants and rain coat. By the end of the day I had stripped back down to a single layer.

We saw the Saskatchewan glacier which feeds the North Saskatchewan River which itself flows ultimately into Lake Winnipeg – feeding all those wheat fields along the way. It was a favourite route of the fur traders.

We checked out the Athabaska Falls – a very popular and beautiful spot. It was chock full of visitors. Of course this is Saturday. There was a raven atop a post by a walkway that didn’t fly off as people walked by. He kept making a weird noise and stretching out his neck which had an odd bulge to it. Later, back on the highway, I got thinking that maybe he had swallowed something and was struggling because it was caught in his throat. I wish I had paid closer attention and talked to one of the park rangers about him. And Buster was still not well which also worried me.

We passed a number of runners on the road. There must have been a marathon or something. They were spread out for quite a distance so I crawled past them. Those poor guys were dealing with snow then hot sun then rain all while running uphill. Not for me!

We eventually got to Jasper where I was finally able to get gas – I was almost on empty. I picked up some rice and a jug of water at the local grocery (Jasper is a resort town – much like Banff) and headed off to a park where I set up my WhisperLite on a picnic table and cooked up the rice for Bus. Hopefully that will help settle his gut problems.

Even the cheapest hotel in Jasper was well beyond my means so we didn’t stay. We headed west on Highway 16 towards Valemount. Along the way we crossed the BC border and gained another hour. We followed the Yellowhead Pass – a well-used indigenous trail which was adopted by the fur-traders and much later recommended by Selkirk as the best pass for the new railway.

We checked out beautiful Mount Robson where Bus seemed to perk up a bit, and then on to the Super 8 at Valemount. We were warmly welcomed by the staff. Valemount is very tiny and very picturesque. It was a relief to have a shower, do some laundry and pamper Bus. I think he is a bit better. We’ll see how he does tonight.

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Eleventh Day – Dinosaur Park to Banff National Park

Bus and I slept really well in the car and I’m glad we didn’t put up the tent cuz it rained again in the night. Despite my eyeshades I woke up at first light – around 5 am. Course we did hit the sack before 9 pm.

Bus ate breakfast while I packed up – actually just repositioned everything – and we headed out by 7 am. This park is incredible and I would love to bring Calvin here. The hiking trails go all over the hoodoos which are chock full of fossils.

We headed for Drumheller along country roads lined by – what else? – wheat fields but also pastures. We have begun to see more and more cattle as well as a number of herds of horses. Along the route we spied more of those deer (antelopes?) at least three times. And just before we got to Drumheller I had to slow down for a regal-looking pheasant at the side of the road.

In Drumheller I had a great breakfast of bacon and eggs, saw the largest dinosaur statue in the world (you can barely see Bus in the picture) and then headed for the Royal Tyrell Dinosaur Museum. It was well worth the visit. The exhibits are impressive and well laid out. It is perfect for kids without being too simple for adults. It is nestled midst hoodoos like Dinosaur Park and as you leave the place you itch to start digging into them searching for more bones and fossils.

We skirted Calgary and headed towards Jasper via Banff. The foothills soon appeared and before long we were in the midst of incredible mountains. The day so far had been rainy and cool although it had started to warm up. By the time we were in the mountains the sun was making an appearance and the temperature was in the double digits.

We stopped in Canmore for a break and to upload yesterday’s blog post. I forgot to bring my camera into the Tim’s (wifi!) so I will put the pictures in when I next get some wifi.

From there we headed for Jasper. Rain would come and then the sun would break through but the temperature dropped back down into the single digits. We got to Mosquito Campsite in Banff National Park by 6 pm so I decided that was good enough for the day. We will head to the ice fields of Jasper tomorrow and then head for B.C. There were still ice patches in the campground.

Since it was rainy and cold I decided we would sleep in the car again.

We’re still loving the journey.

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Day Ten – Swift Current to Dinosaur Provincial Park, Alberta

Got up to a cold and cloudy morning in Swift Current. The room we had in the Motel 6 had a kitchenette and since all they provided for breakfast was coffee and muffins, I dug into my stash of granola and enjoyed a lovely start to my day at my own little table in my own little kitchen. Buster prefers to eat when I eat so he had the perfect opportunity to join me. With full bellies we hit the highway.

I read on the news that Moose Jaw had a huge hailstorm yesterday morning. By the time I got there all I saw was the aftermath of the crazy rainstorm. I guess that must have washed any leftover hail away.

Whoever says the prairies are boring? The scenery from Swift Current down the Trans-Canada was gorgeous. Despite the grey cloudy skies, the golden wheat fields (with only stubble at this time of year) glowed against the green of the hay(?) fields. Especially when a stray bit of sunlight broke through.

Today’s bird was the hawk. They were everywhere – especially on fence posts (no boots and shoes today). I saw three with their backs to the road glaring intently at a field all within the space of about 200 metres. Magpies (at least that’s what I think they were) – black birds with long tails and white on their wings and chest and a raucous call – were everywhere as well. And lots of other birds. I didn’t see any sandpipers today though I did see a couple on the side of the highway yesterday.

We were headed for Fort Walsh in the Cypress Hills. I read Guy Vanderhaeghe’s A Good Man a while ago and was determined to visit the site. Jas and I had spent a night at the Cypress Hills Provincial Park way back in the late nineties but we hadn’t seen the Fort. Fort Walsh was headquarters for the North West Mounted Police built in response to the riffraff conducting illicit alcohol trafficking from the States and also in response to the horrible Cypress Hills massacre conducted by these same hooligans.

By the time we got to Fort Walsh the temperature was down to 7 degrees and the rain was pretty constant. The Cypress Hills are absolutely breath-taking even in bad weather. What was really neat though was the fact that we arrived on the day they were unveiling a new plaque to the memory of those killed in the massacre and a delegation of Lakota had come to consecrate the plaque. It was also to celebrate the new Interpretive Centre – this being the third day since it had opened. It is really beautiful nestled near the very top of the Cypress Hills.

Bus put on his sweater and I bundled him into his carrier and off we went to tour the fort. Young kids in NWMP uniforms met us at the gate and a fresh recruit named Kyle took us on a personal tour of the fort. The fort was built in 1875 and then dismantled in 1882 – so it wasn’t headquarters for long. The main superintendent was James Walsh who worked hard to protect Sitting Bull and his Sioux nation from an angry American population, smarting from Custer’s Last Stand. Politics put the kaibosh on that though and Sitting Bull and his people ended up on a poor reserve back in the U.S.

Bus and I were pretty cold by the time we left Cypress Hills but the car’s heater works well. On the winding road out of the hills we met up with a group of annoyed cattle. And further down the road were some frisky horses. Not much further from here were nine beautiful white-tailed deer who didn’t stick around long once I pulled out my camera. We also passed what looked like an antelope (definitely not a white-tailed deer) on the side of the highway.

Once back onto the Trans-Canada it wasn’t long before we were in Alberta. The plan was to go to Drumheller but it is still cold and rainy so we ended up at Dinosaur Provincial Park – about an hour from Drumheller. It is a World Heritage Site. The park is surrounded by hoodoos and I can imagine if we had time Bus and I could dig up some dinosaur bones. The place is another spectacular spot.

We really do live in a magnificent country.

I forgot to mention that when Bus and I were out for a walk in the park trying to figure out where the washrooms and garbage bins were we spied a coyote not 50 feet away. He saw us watching him and slowly slunk away. I’m glad Bus and I decided to sleep in the back of the car tonight.

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