I ended up fighting the woman beside me for the arm rest all the way out to BC - we were stuck in the back row right beside the washrooms, but at least the engine noise wasn't all that bad. I slotted myself into the end of the never short line as we were going over the Rockies. I watched a bit of Miss Congeniality, mostly to oggle Benjamin Bratt, I have to admit, but since the head phone jack was broken and making the sound cut in and out, I soon gave up and just watched it with no sound when I needed a break from my book. Since I was in the last seat, I was served my dinner last, but they did have my veggie meal waiting for me. We were a bit late landing, but the new terminal was nice. I used to hate the Vancouver terminal, but the modernisation used a lot of warm woods and open bright spaces, and made the place a lot more pleasant to wait for connecting flights in. Of course mine was leaving from the old section. I was blocked on my way through immigration by a large flight of people arriving at the same time, but once I got up to the gate, I had no problems. My bag was on the carousel already, so I grabbed it and breezed through customs.
I hiked over to the domestic terminal, and since Sue wasn't around, I checked myself in at the West Jet counter. I was very early, but I got to ditch my suitcase. I decided to get a real meal, and stopped at good old Tim Horton's for a bowl of turkey stew, a donut, and some more water. The older gentleman sitting next to me was seeing off his friend to Toronto, and I was disappointed that I didn't get to enjoy his Jamaican accent for very long before they had to take off. Sue still wasn't around, so I went through security, and browsed some of the stores back there. Found a copy of an encyclopedia of the world's sacred places - had read about a lot of them in Dorothy Gilman's books, and Sue had seen quite a few of them as well. I settled in at the gate to read and wait. Sue still hadn't appeared by the time they started pre-boarding so I called her apartment and Dad's cell phone - no news. I stalled by the gate, and the attendant finally admitted that Sue'd checked in, and she eventually came booting around the corner and we dashed into the plane. After she caught her breath I heard the story of the missed turn and the caught taxi on a highway on ramp. Of course another group dashed on after her, but we managed to sit together, despite confusing at least four other people. The flight attendants tried to liven up the trip by telling jokes, but Sue and I mostly ignored them while catching up from the time we'd not seen each other. It was a short flight, only about an hour, but we went over some gorgeous mountains. As we came in to land, though, the mountains had opened up and we were on a fairly thickly forested plain. Some young people were there for the ceremony, I think, and were asking natives about what there was to do for fun. The Munk bar was mentioned, it had gargoyles adorning it, but I later found out that it was a main stream bar that was holding a male stripper show that night, so I never did go in, though I did see and was impressed by the facade. Dad and Uncle Roger were waiting for us when we got off the plane, I grabbed my bag and we jumped into Roger's car for the drive back to the Econolodge. Mum and Aunt Monica were in the window of the latter's room, on the second floor above the parking lot, looking out for us, I'd worried them by calling when Sue was late. I got us checked in, and gave Sue the second key. We all went out to Fernando's pub for dinner, Monica and Roger just behind us. We tried to set a time for breakfast, and eventually settled on doing it by ourselves whenever we woke up. I was really really tired after making my way across the continent on so little sleep, so as soon as possible I went back to the hotel and slept at 10pm.
We drove up to the arena where the commencement was being held, finding Monica and Roger waiting for us outside. We found seats in the section directly across from the stage but back fairly far. I pushed for those seats since we'd be sitting through 500 graduands and I didn't want to be craning my neck to the side through the whole ceremony. After some grumbling about elder eyes not seeing so far, they realised that they'd have to climb down to the area set aside for the photo gallery anyway. We were right by the entry way where the procession would come in, anyway. Marc and a friend came up to say hi to us as we were guarding our seats against all comers. We'd managed to get just high up enough that the lovely hanging baskets of flowers weren't blocking our view, but the security detail ended up taking them down as the ceremony began. Just as I was getting sick of staring at the wolf banner and the wooden ceremonial chairs carved in the Northwest Native style, the procession finally came in. We had to stand as the big wigs entered and no one sat down as the kids came in. Dad got a picture as Marc was coming through the entrance. The university's mace was also a speaking stick, and the crest had a salmon and an orca represented in it. There were many tribe elders present and participating in the ceremony - there were a lot of tribal studies graduates, apparently the university has close ties with the local tribe. Connie Chung, the author of The Girl in the Picture and The Concubine's Children, who grew up in Prince George, spoke quite well when she was awarded her honourary degree. The filing past of the graduands began and finally Marc's turn came, somewhere in the middle for the Business and Marketing section. I went down to the photo area and was blocked by the videographer, but grabbed a couple of snap shots that I can later say were Marc receiving his degree. After everyone had been presented with their pieces of paper and the procession exited again, the reception was thrown open, on the floor of the arena. The crush looked to be immense so I decided to go and sit out in the van and updated the addressed in my Palm Pilot. It ws fairly warm so I kept the doors and windows open to the breeze.
Once the reception was done, we all drove up the mountain to the actual university campus to annoy Marc by taking lots of pictures. That boy has to learn how to smile more naturally. *sigh* :) Anyway, there was a neat rock formation in the main courtyard - it was a small campus - in the centre of which Marc assured us that they made a nice mountain of plowed snow for playing in. As we were leaving we saw a sign warning against prohibited activities, and it was emphasised how far north we were when one of the vetoes was against snowboarding on the quad. Sue took a picture of the sign to finish up her role of film. There was a lot of exposed wood and windows in the university architecture, and we went into the atrium to take some group shots. There was a nice view over towards the Caribou Mnts over Prince George, with the pulp mill in the middle distance. We finally imposed on Marc enough and drove back down the hill for dinner, at Earl's. There was a bit of a wait (apparently the town doesn't boast that many nice restaurants and we hadn't made a reservation) but as we were making our way through the line, a hostess came by often to offer us appetisers - the fried calamari was great. I had the tandoori chicken, it was very tender and it's mango chutney went well with the mango marguerita that I indulged in. We were sort of rushed out of the table since someone had reserved it for an hour and a half after we came in, but I didn't feel that we lost anything, since we weren't going to linger anyway.
I rode in Monica and Roger's car, and we all headed over to London Drugs so that Sue could drop off her film for processing. I went into Overwaitee with them as they picked up water for the trip back down to Vancouver with Sue where they'd stay for a few days before going over to Comox. We went back to the hotel and I was informed that our van would be leaving at 6am - I pushed for that instead of five, since taking the ferry at 7 instead of 5 wouldn't get us back to Vancouver Island all that late, and this way we'd have some time to stop and sight see. Dad and I went back to the market to get breakfast food, and I left and apple and a scone for Sue to munch on when they left later in the morning. I gave Roger directions to my house in Boston for when they made it out that way at the end of their trek back across the continent, then he gave Sue a ride back to pick up her film. I got to see some of her pictures there, the ones of her and Jake posing by the frozen lake that they'd gone up to hike around were redolent of their frustration at the weather. I was asleep by 10pm.
After lunch Dad took over the driving again, after stopping for gas, and launched us onto the hair raising goat track, also known as Highway 99. They'd warned me, but did I listen? Of course not. Hair pin bends going up and down mountain sides, the rock inches from the side of the van on one side, and a drop into the river half a kilometer down on the other side, with one lane bridges that cars going north were *supposed* to yield us right of way on. Dad, who'd been driving as much as he could for the last 50 years, and had taken this trip each time he'd moved Marc up to P.G. for the school year, took each turn at a speed just short of tipping us over into the gorge. When Marc took over he wasn't much better. 20% down grades and curves rated at 20kph were tackled with abandon. We were so high that we passed some snow that had not quite melted, piled up by the side of the road. We saw a jeep that looked like it was ready to launch out into the river - it had a motor boat on it's roof and the outboard motor strapped to the back doors. There was one place where we stopped to stretch our legs that had lush vegetation on one side of the road, and arid desert on the other. We passed a sign for bulls tested, all breeds. We finally hit the coast, passing through Whistler and Squamish, and proceeded along the stretch of the Sea to Sky highway with the metal mesh nets staked into the rock faces to prevent rocks from tumbling down onto the highway. We arrived at Horseshoe Bay at around 5:30pm, bought our ticket and pulled into the line up to wait for the 7pm sailing. I took my journal over to a concrete divider by a tiny perfect waterfall and updated it with the day's events.
The announcement finally came to return to the cars (a garbled message that Dad interpreted for me) and we were directed onto the ferry. We staked out a group of four seats on the passenger deck, and I held them, reading while Mum and Dad went off to get dinner. Marc disappeared. Once the 'rents came back, I went off to have my clam chowder. The cafeteria tables had small ridges around the edge to keep things from sliding off of them in rough seas, but this crossing was calm. The high school students sitting next to me were boasting about a bike rally and the various ways they'd cheated. Two women stopped to talk to another table of people and mentioned that they were on the way back from a pow wow. The tables were quite close together. I decided to drink my bottle of water up on the deck. I tried the prow of the boat, but it was going so fast and was so windy that even pressed up against the wall, I was hard pressed to catch my breath, so I moved to the stern and settled there to watch Vancouver receed into the distance. I could see the tip of Mt. Ranier in Seattle to the south, it was so clear. A girl was sitting writing in her diary off to my right, and she asked me for the date. I was a bit confused, since I'd had the one day in Boston between Chicago and BC so I was all turned around. We figured it out eventually, and kept talking. She was a birthing coach and was planning a trip around the US to unify others in her profession. Her duties lay around a midwife's duties, and apparently with more governments and health plans recognising midwifery as a valid alternative to hospitals, there was some dissention in the ranks that she was hoping to quell. She planned to put up a web site with her travel stories on it and hopefully I can find it to link to it here. She was very talkative and ended up sharing her life story with me: married at 17, 3 kids, split with her husband, and her best friend is now in love with her. She used to have the same hair style as mine, but at that point it as a neat mixture of black and blonde. She and her friend had just decided to head over to Nanaimo for a house warming party that night. Another guy was sitting to her right and offered us a drag of his weed, but I refused. Her friend found us just before the announcement came to return to our cars, and around 8:30 I said good bye and returned to the van with the family. We drove off the ferry in Nanaimo and got on the new coastal highway that they've been slowly extending north from Nanaimo, though I think Campbell River is as far as it's to go. It's up to Comox now, so the 100km went much fast than in former years when we'd be poking along through every coastal town on the two lane road. I called for a rest stop in Qualicum Beach, and we pulled off the highway into a nice little rest area. They had an environmentally friendly compost toilet that was much less fragrant that I remember from the outhouses of my elementary school camping trips. We finally pulled into the driveway at home in Comox. I fell straight into bed at that point, 15 hours after we'd left Prince George.
On the drive back home, I stopped in the Queenish gift shop, finally. I'd meant to stop in each time I was back for a visit, but it was rarely open when I was free. They had some very nice prints, but I couldn't make a decision and planned to go back the next day. The coffee table book on northwest coast carving was way too pricey to buy, but I leafed through it and put it on my list of things to buy when I'm rich. :) They closed up the register and I continued on home for dinner. I finished up my book (Burning Water, a step above Jinx High, I'd have to say), and then settled in front of the TV for two episodes of Law and Order. I gave Sue a call and checked about a flight to Vancouver on Tuesday, and called my friend Robin in North Van to arrange to meet for dinner that night. Got to bed at midnight.
By that time, my film was ready to pick up, so I went back to get it and headed out of the mall. I stopped in at the video store for a movie and the bakery next to it for a rum ball to eat on the walk home since I was starving. I made a sandwich and settled in front of the TV to watch The Road to El Dorado. It was fun, and wasted an afternoon. :) Then I decided to abuse my Dad's cable modem, watching some of the spots on AdCritic, especially the Molson "I Am Canadian one". I dunno what my friends were teasing me about, the beaver is a fine and noble animal. :) I then got sucked into the BMW film site and downloaded a few movies from there. Marc was reinstalling windows on his box due to problems getting it connected through the cable modem.
After supper, Dad and I took Misha to Airforce Beach to walk along the sand for a bit. We took a nice long walk, the air was very fresh and there was a bit of a breeze coming in off of the Straight of Juan De Fuca. We could see the pulp mills across the straight in Powell River quite clearly. We stopped at one point to talk to another group of people on the beach and Misha got impatient with us, rearing up on her hind legs and pushing at Dad with her front paws to get him to continue walking. She's a freak. :) We watched the progress of a couple of people walking out onto a sand bar that extended out into the curve of the bay. It was very low tide but I still wouldn't have done it, they were walking out for 20 minutes or so. We went home a new way, driving past the Powell River ferry dock, talking of relationships. Dad wants grand kids but I warned him that Sue or Marc would be his best bet for that.
I plunked myself down in front of the TV again and watched The Whole 9 Yards, where Bruce Willis went almost all the way back to his wise cracking Moonlighting character. After it was over, I rummaged around until I found a box the size I wanted, and packed up some more of my books to take back with me. Most of them had moved out west with the family when I stayed in Ontario for university, but I've been slowly ferrying them back east as I obtain enough book shelf space. I'd love to be able to get my two shelves back (one wooden, two sided, 7 foot tall one that I scored from when the library in Borden went over to metal shelves) but at this point it's cheaper to just buy new ones rather than ship them across the continent. Marc agreed to wake me up in the morning by 10:30 and drive me to the airport, where Dad would meet us to say good bye to me. In bed by midnight.
The Comox airport is tiny, with only one real gate now that they've done some renovations. All they really get is flights on the Vancouver/Campbell River/Comox loop, and maybe a few flights via Victoria. They called my 12:50 flight at 12:45, I didn't go through any sort of security, just walked out to the turboprop plane on the tarmac and climbed up into it. We had a brief stop in Campbell River and then over the straight to Vancouver. It was a nice clear day, I could see the coast very clearly, with inlets and wharves dotting the line of it. The plane came it at Vancouver's South Terminal, and I walked from the plane over to the building, and tried to find my sister's friend Jake, who was supposed to pick me up. We ended up waiting for each other at opposite ends of the terminal (it was *just* big enough for us not to see each other). I called Sue to double check that Jake really was coming, thought that one guy waiting for a plane was him, but he didn't respond to my enquiring looks, so I sat and waited. Jake found me eventually, and we hauled my stuff out to his car. We chatted a bit on the 30 minute drive to Sue's place, it was the first time I'd met the guy she'd been raving about for the past few months. The transit strike was still in full force, making traffic a bit heavier than normal.
I threw my stuff into the living room, where I'd been given custody of the futon for the night. I left a message for Robin, that I was in Vancouver, and could she please call me. I decided to head downtown to pass the afternoon, and try calling Robin again from pay phones, thinking it'd be easier to meet up with her downtown. Jake dropped me at the Skytrain stop at Broadway as he was headed out to get a vaccum to finish up cleaning out his last apartment that he was still in the process of moving out of. I picked a stop at random, pretty much, and got off at Granville and wandered along that street and Robson. Passed some very chi-chi shops in Yaletown, and saw some really pretty leaf imprints in the sidewalk cement. I left messages for Robin, but couldn't get in touch with her, so I headed home at 5:30. I grabbed a Nanaimo bar to munch on, since for some odd reason they're not available in Boston, and I love them so, and it was bloody huge! And cheap! Mmmmm, buttery chocolate goodness. :) I made Nanaimo bars once, the boxed recipe took most of a pound of butter for it's various layers. The sky train was immensely crowded on my way back, I had to let two trains go past before there was room to get on one, and had to push my way off at Broadway. I stopped in at the Scotia Bank branch that was right there, and grabbed taxi money for the evening. I walked up Commercial Ave and over on Grant, a fair hike to get to the house. I was fairly introspective on the last street, it was conducive to thinking deep thoughts, with lots of greenery and neat houses.
Sue was on the phone with Aunt Mons when I came in, and there was a message from Robin, she was at work until 6pm. Oops. Sue and I talked for a bit, with her inviting me to go along with her to her yoga class if I couldn't get in touch with Robin. While we were eating pasta, the phone rang and I arranged to go over to Robin's at 8:30. Sue left for yoga after her room mate Kirsti came home and Kirsti's SO arrived. I think four of them share the house altogether, so they have a really reasonable rent. Cats keep prowling through their back yard, ducking behind the shed just after they're spotted from the comfy window seat at the kitchen table. The couple's pizza arrived and then my taxi to Robin's. The long blonde hair fooled me into thinking it was a woman driver until after I was in the cab, but the guy was very talkative and disabused me of that notion very quickly. The ride over to North Van was longer than I anticipated, costing me about $20.
Robin answered the door buzzer right away and I went up to their apartment. She was just finishing up the dishes so I talked with her husband Eddie for a bit. He reminds me strongly of my friend Axel in Toronto, even though he's Irish. Same general body type, mannerisms and hair cut, I think. Very intelligent as well. He and I ended up talking more than Robin did, she seemed a bit worn out from work, and half enthralled with the TV. Hrm, I still haven't sent them the post card I promised to... Oops! Soon. :) We looked up the addresses online of some shops they had to recommend to me, as well as checking out my company's web site, at which point I noticed that the promo photo of one of the Chicago units used in the web page had, in addition to the command windows open, the silhouette of my head in the bottom corner. Great. *sigh* Sue and Jake came to pick me up at around 10:30, and I curled up on the futon and fell fast asleep.
I wandered around West Hastings and Cambie in Gastown, finding a neat antiques store. They had lots of old (expensive) dress maker's dummies, and some neat rings. I picked up two, cheap, since one was bent. I got sucked into a tourist shop and bought two cards with different representations of salmon one them in the northwest native style. One is very flow-y, almost insect like in it's thin lines extending from it's fins, the other is more traditional. I found a button and notions store and picked up four sets of cuff link bases - need to get some epoxy and mount some neat buttons on them. Cabbages and Kinx wasn't opening until 11am, so I wandered around the block again, finding a dress shirt in the style that I've been looking for for a long time (high collar with the points bent down in triangles, pleated front, french cuffs), at a price that I liked. C&K wasn't opening at the advertised time, so I gave up, getting back on the Skytrain for the ride back to Sue's. The view of the encircling mountains was quite nice from the train. I grabbed some more taxi money for the ride to the airport, as well as for the one I caught on Commercial that I took back to Sue's, unable to face walking that far again after wandering around so much in the morning. Plus was a bit later than I wanted to be, for waiting for C&K to open. I had the taxi wait and dashed in to get my bags, and left my house key with yet another room mate who was in the front room as I was dashing out.
It was a good thing that I had the full recommended 2 hours left before my flight when I arrived at the airport, and that I grabbed a cart for my suitcase and the box of books I was lugging. Immigration stopped me and read me the riot act for giving up my I94 - the airline clerks always want to take it, but I'm to hide it from them when I travel. Of course the new guy who was trying to process me couldn't find my record in his computer and he had his boss and another guy over to help him. They worked it out eventually, and waved me on to the customs gate, where I was promptly pegged for a random check. *sigh* At least the guy pulling apart my backpack, suitcase and box of books was nice about it, even going so far as to x-ray the box instead of undoing all my work to get it tied up securely. I did fill in the comment card that they gave me and mailed it, so he had at least one good feed back about his work. By the time I was through all the red tape, with my bags off on their mysterious journey to the hold of the plane, I was ready to eat. I grabbed a chicken pot pie and some grape fruit juice at one of the concession stands near my gate. An Aussie who was in line after me had some interesting communication difficulties with the clerk that I had barely understood. I ate, then called Sue to say goodbye again and complain about the officialdom I'd had to deal with. I boarded right after that, since they were anticipating the flight a bit more with a cross border, long haul, than the puddle jump the day before. The woman who sat next to me took up her seat and the aisle as she stretched out sleeping, but I was happy enough sitting up reading "Those Who Hunt the Night", finishing it just before we landed. The seat arm radio kept me entertained as well, Alan Cross played the Cure, and the Dropkick Murphy's on his station - I love Air Canada. :) The vegetarian meal was even standard on this flight. I totally ignored the inflight movie, 13 Days, in favour of my book. I only saw the foothills of the Rocky's this time, there was a lot of cloud cover over the centre of the range. The landing was a bit gusty, but we were down safe eventually. My bags came through fairly quickly and I grabbed a taxi to take me home. My driver was a very deliberate speaker, with lots of pauses in his speech.
I got my stuff into my apartment and checked the phone messages. There were a couple from one of the managers at work, giving her home number with instructions to call her as soon as I got in. Knowing that she was usually up fairly late, I gave her a call even though it was around midnight. I was glad I did, since I'd have been worrying all night otherwise. Found out that there had been massive lay offs at the company, and that I was going on half time for two months and then my job would probably disappear. We made an appointment to go out for coffee the next morning when I came in to work, with me refusing to bike out to Central Sq (which would have taken me an hour) so she and Henry would have a short trip to meet up. We agreed to meet at work instead. I called my parents to let them know I'd arrived and the bad news, made myself a drink, unpacked, and repacked my backpack with work clothes for the morning. I was able to console myself with the fact that I'd held off on paying back my loans, since I'd need the money to live on now. *sigh* I was asleep before my room mate came home.