Tuesday, April 24, 2007


Butchart Gardens is a Victoria highlight

Just another Vancouver Island vista

The trip.................so far

The RV is parked in a fenced yard, we’re at an airport hotel waiting for our flight home and, the exploring has ended………for now.

Our little journey has not been what we expected. It has been so much better. As we departed Brockville in August, we reasoned that if we did not truly enjoy moving from place to place in an RV, we would sell the rig, return home and check RV travel off our list of things to do. Instead, we have learned more, experienced more, and most importantly appreciated more of what makes up this continent on which we live. And…… in our case, it’s not about the RV. It is merely a means to an end, putting us in places to which we would never fly or otherwise visit.

So far, we have put about 15,000 km on the motorhome and, an additional 19,000 km on the car. We have explored a bit of Canada and 20 of the largest states, teaching us that there is so much more to see. We have been surprised by how many people we have met along the way that do this as a full-time life-style, year after year. They think we’re nuts to be returning to a “home base”. Then there are those amongst friends and family who thought we were nuts to embark on this trip. I guess the consensus is that we’re nuts!!!!! Our chosen name for the RV, the “Pecan”, becomes more fitting all the time!

We are eager to see friends, family and home and, we’re eager to get back to more exploring. Go figure!!

Saturday, April 21, 2007


The "Prince of Whales" in much smoother water, snapped from our ferry on the day we arrived in BC
There's a lot of white out there and, I don't mean the snow on the mountain tops!!!

Our very good luck...... an in-the-water boat show in front of the BC legislature. Some great deals. A very unenthusiastic wife!!

The view from our dinner table at "Sooke Harbour House"

Along the coast, around every corner is another picture!

When we booked our tickets for a 3 hour whale watching trip on a 62 foot “Zodiac” style boat, we inquired as to the sea conditions in the Strait of Juan de Fuca. We were told that there was some “texture” on the water!! Departing Victoria harbour we could see conditions building in the strait. 40 minutes into the trip the boat, which usually cruises at 20 - 30 knots, was crawling up and over 6 foot whitecaps in a wind that had built to 31 knots. The crew decided to abandon the trip and return to harbour but, made the mistake of asking passengers if they were OK for the 45 minute return trip; giving them the option of being dropped off at another close-by harbour up the coast, for a cab ride back into Victoria. There was an enthusiastic endorsement of plan “B”.

After the “whimps” were dropped off, the remaining, albeit dramatically reduced crew had a wild downwind ride over building seas back to Victoria. Since the journey usually encompasses a 60 – 90 mile round trip to the whales depending on their location and, since our round trip had only covered 18.5 miles in our 2 ½ hour “wave dance”, we were cheerfully refunded the price of our tickets. I would equally as cheerfully have paid just for the wave ride!! It was a blast. When we return in the autumn, we will eagerly try the “Prince of Whales” once more.

Victoria and environs is everything people have told us it is: beautiful, rugged, and so picturesque. We have traveled to Sooke Harbour, along the coast and, around the city. Stunning!! We’re glad that we will be back in the fall to pick up the RV. We’ll make time to do much more exploring.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007


Our Home and Native Land

Getting ready to be "swallowed up" by the ferry

Goodbye to Washington State and the USA

" Welcome to Victoria"

Whenever I hear Brenda utter “Oh dear!” as we are pulling into an RV Park, I know that the park will not get on to our list of favourites! We got a very emphatic “Oh dear!” pulling into the park in Victoria B.C. It’s pretty bad but, what the hell, we’re back in Canada.

The ferry crossing from Port Angeles, Washington to Victoria B.C. was a great short trip which a cut a long day of driving out of our journey. There were several motorhomes and 18 wheelers in the ferry. We were alongside a 45 foot RV which prevented me from turning right to get to the exit ramp on the starboard side of the ferry but, we had to exit first. The ferry staff directed me to pull straight ahead and then crank it hard at the last minute. I was sure we would get wedged in between a post, the other RV and, the hull of the ship. We made it with less than 2 inches to spare. Those guys have done that a few times before!!!

As we drove through Canada Customs (they still call it that don’t they?) I detailed the list of our purchases and honestly declared 2 bottles of liquor and 19 bottles of wine. The Customs officer asked how much the wine was worth. I told him and he said “Have a nice day sir”. Honesty IS the best policy! Whoopee!!

We did a quick drive right through downtown Victoria from the ferry dock. I think spring is the time of year to visit. The whole city is in bloom!!! We’ll be exploring for the next few days. Then we have to ship a surprising amount of “stuff” home. It’s amazing what we have accumulated! The RV goes into storage for the summer with some provisions for maintenance and, we’ll be flying home on the 24’th. The end of Chapter II is nigh. Maybe one more blog post before we get home.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Cool………very cool!!!

From this...........

..... to this ......... in a 25 minute ferry ride

The fish market is much larger than pictured (this is the Crab section). Fish, crabs, etc. and parts thereof are flying every-which-way

Museums and the arts are found throughout the city

It is difficult to know how to describe Seattle other than cool! It’s a bit Bohemian, a little artsy, a bit “nuts and berries”, VERY high tech, a touch of outdoors, always maritime and, just a bit of “old” and “new” mixed together. All in all……unique!

The city itself is very modern and, has a young, vibrant feel to it but, what makes it truly unique is that the second largest ferry fleet in the world (BC Ferries is #1) brings much of its daily workforce in from the surrounding communities which populate the shores of Puget Sound. As a result, for many people it’s like living in Muskoka (with mountains) and working in downtown Toronto, without the traffic jam. Instead they have a very civilized 25 minute ferry ride to work, complete with on-board espresso cafes and plush armchairs. No automobiles required!! These same people then live in small, seaside towns with all the outdoor amenities you can imagine. Cool!!

If anyone can remember the “fish tossing” scene at the fish market in “Sleepless in Seattle”, we saw it replayed over and over at the Pikes Place Fish Market. These guys are good!!! We saw them tossing 20 pound halibuts and, catching them with one hand, while looking the other way and talking to customers. They do like to show off a bit but…..those damn fish are slippery!!!! Very cool!

Seattle has to be another of the US’s most livable cities.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

A Subtle Difference

More wine!!!!! 110 acres of nothing but Oregon Pinot Noir
From this vantage there were blossoming apple orchards for 360 degrees

Since we left Brockville in August we have been truly blessed with weather. I doubt that we have seen 8 - 10 days of rain on the entire trip…………..until the Pacific Northwest!!! Here, it rains every day; not ALL day; but EVERY day. An important distinction. In fact, we have not really been hampered much by the daily rains. It’s difficult to take a picture of Mount Hood because of the continual cloud and overcast but, that’s about it. However, if truth be told, we are both much happier under a cobalt blue sky from sun-up to sun-down. At this point we can either hightail it back to Palm Springs or, bite the bullet and continue the trek home. Alas the pull of family and friends wins.

A Brockville friend kindly put us in contact with a pal who works in the expanding Oregon wine business, who in turn pointed us in the right direction to find some really great Pinot Noirs. We tasted a number and, were very impressed. Being Canadian and used to French Pinots, we found the Oregon wines much more ready to drink young but, not quite as complex as their French cousins. Since we still haven’t figured out what to do with the cases of wine we are carrying from past tastings in California, we battled the temptation to buy our favourites. We are hoping for a VERY understanding Customs inspector.

Today we’ll finally reach Washington State and, park for a while outside Seattle in order to explore the area. Maybe the rain will let up!!

Thursday, April 12, 2007


2 competing espresso stands, 20 feet from each other, in the same parking lot

EVERYTHING is in bloom

The western end of the Columbia River Gorge

This waterfall is over 600 feet high

I have neglected to mention the overwhelming number of drive-up Espresso stands in Oregon. It seems that every parking lot, supermarket and, many gas stations have an espresso stand, the size of a large walk–in closet, on their property. Mostly, they seem to be owner-run operations, competing with the dozens of others in town. As we drove the RV through the mountains on a secondary highway, we stopped at a combination realty office/espresso stand on the block long main street of a tiny village. $5.00 bought two excellent lattes and a Danish. Look out Starbucks!!!

Today we drove east through the 80 mile long Columbia River Gorge to the windsurfing capital of the world (self proclaimed) near the town of Hood River. We have seen television coverage of the windsurfing here, with the surfers jumping standing waves in the gorge, in screaming wind conditions. Our luck …….. there was only a gentle breeze blowing today so, the surfers must have been in the numerous “surfing pubs”. A surf shop owner gave us the old “Ya shoulda been here on the weekend. It was wild!!”

The gorge itself is picturesque with dozens of waterfalls, some up to 600 feet high, pouring down the walls, seeking the Columbia River. The road runs along the top of the gorge, down the steep slopes and then back up again. Here, our timing was good, as the waterfalls are all running at, or near, their spring maximum water flow. The Cascade Mountains further east, which drain to the Columbia, still have major snow-pack on their summits, with Mount Hood standing out (when you can see it through the clouds). Oregonians are justifiably proud of their surroundings.

Monday, April 09, 2007

The Neighbourhood

The view out the windshield

Some of the neighbours came over for lunch

Seafood is available everywhere. $6.95 bought us all the shucked oysters we could eat at 2 meals!!!!!

Many of the quaint towns are highly rated for retirement

Our rolling home has been parked in Winchester Bay, Oregon for 4 days with our windshield literally 20 feet from the bay. Brenda, the “Queen of black and white”, is enamoured with the neighbours. Anytime we look out, we see a family of Loons (black & white) swimming back and forth along with a flock of Buffleheads (small ducks……black & white). Every so often a couple of Sea Lions appear (they look black when they are wet) looking for a meal in front of the RV. No brightly coloured wildlife need apply!!!

The Oregon coast is a beautiful, wild and rugged landscape, with a unique and different lighthouse around every corner. We have driven north and south for hundreds of miles, taking in the Oregon State Aquarium, numerous quaint, sea-side towns, great sea-food, and the ever-changing scenery. The weather changes as frequently as the scenery; one minute sunny; raining the next and, when a small storm blows through……..look out!

We have become very appreciative of the opportunity to visit places like this in the off-season. Without throngs of other tourists, one can really appreciate travel destinations in a way that the locals experience three seasons of the year. Kind of like seeing the St. Lawrence in winter!!!

Friday, April 06, 2007

Logs and Trees

Within 6 miles of the town of Cottage Grove there are 7 covered bridges. We saw four of them.

So..............you think you're havin' a BAD day!!!!!

The beaches are magnificent with miles of dunes (Lots of dune buggies though)

An Oregon lighthouse through the perpetual sea spray

If the logging truck is not the state symbol of Oregon, it should be. They’re everywhere!!! Nevertheless, there are still plenty of trees. We have been fortunate to have been following Spring northward for the past several weeks. Everywhere we travel shrubs and trees are in bloom, wildflowers cover the ground and, the countryside is enveloped in that superb “spring green” colour. The drive through northern California into Oregon was beautiful, with parts of California reminiscent of Switzerland……. rolling green mountains populated with herds of grazing cattle and sheep as well as a remote individual farm here and there. No corporate farming here.

Oregon is big and “all outdoors”. The rural countryside is a world apart from big cities. Mountains, trees and…….. a good workout if you’re driving a 34,000 pound block up and down and around the mountain highways. Going up is easy (slow maybe) …….. coming down is the trick. I sure am glad I took that air-brake course. The engine brake is getting a good workout as we happily pass the many truck runaway lanes that seem to be spaced every 5 or 6 miles. I can now easily distinguish between a 5% grade, a 6% grade or a 7% grade. An 8% grade earns a martini after the descent!!!!

Today we crossed over to the coast at Winchester Bay. We were told not to miss the Oregon Coast and, we were not misled. Rugged beauty, forty miles of sand dunes that stretch a mile back from the water, blazing Rhododendrons, sea lion caves, and sea-food, sea-food. A great pick for Easter weekend

Wednesday, April 04, 2007


This sundial casts a LARGE shadow

The surface of the "Sundial Bridge" is thick glass

Shasta Dam, Shasta Lake, Mount Shasta (the snow covered one).............this hasta be Shasta

Small and medium sized towns and cities in the US seem to have access to many more infrastructure dollars than do their Canadian cousins. We are now in the small northern California city of Redding, in the shadow of Mount Shasta and the Cascade Mountains, in California’s Central Valley. This city of 90,000 souls has wonderful parks, trails, gardens, fountains, museums and, a huge modern conference and arts centre. We saw the Harlem Gospel Choir there last night. A wonderful show in a great venue! It seems they always have great entertainment available.

One bridge over the Sacramento River is a pedestrian suspension bridge designed as a working sundial. The sundial arm is so tall it has aircraft collision avoidance lighting on its top. A LARGE artwork!!

All of this pales as you drive out into the mountains. We motored out to Shasta Dam, the second largest dam in the US. (We drove right by #1 without stopping – the Hoover Dam near Las Vegas). Even at #2, there are 6,270,000 cu. yd. of concrete in the dam, enough to build a 4 foot wide sidewalk around the equator!! The surrounding mountain countryside offers picture-taking vistas everywhere you turn. We’re almost in Oregon.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

A Little Vintner Humour

It used to be "There's gold in them thar hills"
Now it's "There's wine in them thar hills"

Look out for the dogs..........

.......and the deer

More than wine for sale

The Saturday Wine Poker Run was a hoot. One winery was run by a young couple who produce fewer than 1000 cases of wonderful full-bodied wine per year in tumbledown buildings. Another was run by a veterinarian who, with underground mining equipment, spent a year and millions of dollars creating a magnificent underground wine cave, by tunneling into the side of a granite hill. This cave is complete with a formal dining room, an art collection, tasting room, lots of maturing wine and fountains cascading down the exterior of the cave. Diversity rules. After the tastings everyone, including the winery owners and winemakers, congregated in the cave at one of the wineries for a prime rib dinner and lots of fun and prizes. Coming from eastern Canada we easily stole the “longest drive” prize to get to the Poker Run.

As one vintner explained to me, due to the small output of these wineries, winemaking in this area is more of a lifestyle than a way to make a living!! We thoroughly enjoyed these friendly people and, developed a great respect for their “lifestyle”. They may not make a lot of money but, they sure know how to have fun. And…..they have a quirky sense of humour. I have attached pictures snapped along the wine trails.

The best vintner sense of humour definitely belongs to Paul Toogood (his real name), the underground miner/veterinarian and owner of the Toogood Winery, whose premier wine is labeled “Foreplay”. (The winery region is known as Fairplay) You may need to double click the picture of the T shirt available for purchase at Paul’s winery store. It, along with thongs and other unmentionables available for sale, indicate that his mind is on more than wine.