Toronto and British Columbia, 2009

This was a whirlwind of a trip. It started off with some events and a wish to stitch them all together into one trip: I ended up only sleeping in the same bed two nights in a row on two occasions on this trip, but it was fun. :)


Saturday June 13, 2009

I always tell myself not to book early morning flights, but in this case it was the only way to get all of my flights paid for via my Air Canada air miles (aka only paying the taxes, versus close to $700 if I paid out of pocket). Cris used his United Miles where he could, and paid for one segment. Getting his bike to Vancouver ended up being cheapest if he sent it via UPS (Air Canada charges a lot to check a bike box, and with the stop over in Toronto, that would have come out to (a lot) * 2. So, yeah, that's what led us to getting up at 3:30am on a Saturday morning to head to the airport via cab.

I was just ready to go out the door at 4:15am for the taxi (having breakfast and doing last minute packing after getting up). We had a very Boston-history knowledgable taxi driver, but he always had to have the last word. Check in at the airport was easy, we used a gate agent to make sure that we would be sitting together despite the separate ticket purchases. They weren't let us through to the boarding lounge yet, and we were sitting and waiting near the squeeky escalator. The security line was short once it opened, and we were in the first boarding group as we were near the back of the plane. It was a slightly bumpy flight, but I managed to sleep a bit. I had my new noise cancelling head phones, bought after snapping the arm on my old ones on a previous trip, and they worked okay. They fit right against my ear instead of around it, and the band over my head pressed into my scalp a bit as well, which was annoying. No food on offer, I had grabbed some water just before the security gate opened. There was a bit of a delay to get our bags, but we had blown through immigration (the Toronto airport was almost empty at that time of morning).

We took a taxi downtown, but there was an organised bike ride along Lakeshore Drive which diverted us to Spadina before we could turn north and onto Queen St. Got to see Wicked's store front after reading about the sex club in the airline magazine (!). At the Gladstone Hotel they let us check in at around 9am when we arrived. An older gentleman dressed in cowboy regalia operated the manual control elevator and took us up to our room, the Map Room. It had relief maps on the wall in white on white, and a mobile was suspended from the ceiling at the Gladstone's location. The high ceiling and large window gave us lots of space and light, and the extra set of doors between the stairwell and our floor made it audio-isolated from the bar and restaurant downstairs. I washed my face and we went down for breakfast part 2. Service was a bit slow, but the server had a hafl shaved head and a line of braids/dreads that was really cool. :) Delicious pancakes with cooked apples, yoghurt and syrup. Fresh grapefruit juice and organice loose leaf tea gave me lots of goo dthings to drink. Went up to the room again to get stuff to wander around, and then out to the street car stop.

We had a bit of a wait and then three came along, we took the second one to avoid crowding. A guy waiting with us was swearing at people for being so "stupid" as to crowd into the first one. We took the street car over to John and Queen and went to Urbane Cyclist so Cris could look for spare bulbs for his bike lights. We browsed through Pages and lots of other stores, with Cris trying to settle on a house warming present for his parents (they were moving to a new condo while we were going to be visiting). There are some neat new furniture shops on Queen W now. We stopped at a cheese place next to Jave Hut and I got a great pressed cheese sandwich, dipping sauce, salad, and iced tea. We stopped in at the Healthy Butcher to get chicken patties. The big red ball, part of Luminato, was parked right next door, so I snapped a picture and watched people interact with it. We eventually ended up at Bakka where I'd planned to pick up the new Tanya Huff book, as always about a week after her in store signing, but I was foiled when the distributer had only sent them enough books for the signing and there were all out. :/ I ended up getting Laurell K. Hamilton's newest Anita Blake novel, and the Kelley Armstrong mystery series pilot book. We walked a bit further west to look at things and caught the street car again by the big thrift thing / yard sale taking place at Trinity Bellwoods park. I finished up my lunch by eating the salad at the hotel and changed into my camo mini skirt and strappy tank, bringing a sweater against the evening's chill, and walked out to Axel and Siobhan's. We stopped at the Liquor Store to get gin, and sweat was dripping off my elbows as I carried my shopping bags, earlier it had been nice and cool.

I made myself a gin and tonic as I arrived, and that ended up being my only drink. The pig needed more charcoal, so Cris pitched in to help shift it around and add air vents. It was running a bit late, it was almost dark when it was done. The mosquitoes came out then too. I got to talk a bit with Jason about scotch, BC about WisCon, Jackie about working out, I think Krista about food, and had lots of other conversations. I saw Sloot and Kim but didn't get an introduction until we were all in Long Beach in two weeks, and am still kicking myself for not saying hi earlier. Got to meet Panic's BoyMan, and got a tour of the house and a run down of the current state of renovations. Talked a bit with Siobhan as she was washing dishes as I arrived, but then kept missing her the rest of the night. I walked Martin back to his house after Cris left, and we had a good quiet talk. I wish I could cure my cat allergies and stay with them. I walked back by myself, I was getting overwhelmed due to the rising noise levels as more and more people arrived. I had some of Steph's white chocolate raspberry cheesecake and the dark chocolate pig cake, but the sugar upset my stomach a bit. I'd cooked my chicken patties on the side grill when I got hungry, and had to guard against the hungry pig fanciers waiting for their meat. I stayed until about 1am, then walked part way back with Eileen and Louise and Matt. I walked alone through the clouds of club smokers along Qeuen W and went up to the room. No trouble getting the second key card. It was nice and quiet up there. I took a shower and was in bed by about 1:30am.

Sunday June 14, 2009

I woke up at around 8:30am, but just went to the bathroom and went back to bed, because I'm on vacation, dammit. :) Got up for reals at around 10am. I called Martin and he and Krista said that they'd come to the Gladstone to meet us for breakfast. I packed up and got ready to go and then went down to grab a table for four. They came in soon after, and three of us got pots of tea. It was a bit loud, it seems to be a popular place for brunch. The frittata with asparagus and parmasean and baby tomatoes was pretty good, but I skipped the potatoes. Cris and I took them upstairs to see our room while we gathered our stuff and then Cris and I took the elevator down (manual operator, Hank was missing). Checked out and left our baggage behind the counter. Criss took off up Dufferin on a bus to try and get a haircut on College, while I walked back to Landsdown with Martin and Krista to get Steph and Eileen. I got a glass of water while the gals were getting ready to go out for lunch, and Slinky continued her persecution of me by drinking out of my glass when I left it on the floor for a moment (she was the one who licked my eyeball when I stayed with them at their old apartment, I think). I washed out my glass and got more water. It took a while but eventually all of us girls got into Eileen's car (she and Krista were packed to head back to Chicago), and Martin biked up to College on his sweet Amsterdam city bike. *makes grabby hands* Cris and Jason and Panic and John were at Sneaky Dee's already, holding down a long table. We got our orders in - poached egg huervos rancheros and a vanilla milkshake after Martin talked it up. Axel and Bob arrived soon after. Good food, and I let Steph have some of my food as her's was delayed. We walked with Martin down to Queen W through alleys (took lots of pictures of graffiti this time, finally!) and met Steph and the Fluevog store. I made the mistake of trying on the Babycakes boots, and the 7.5 fit like a glove. If I had any space in my suitcase, I probably would have bought them then. Cris and I stopped in for a quick iced tea and coffee. Cris and I and Steph took the Queen car back west, with Cris and I getting off at the Gladstone. We'd played hopscotch with Martin along the street for a while, traffic was pretty heavy. We could all use a nap at this point, we were pretty quiet. Cris and I got our stuff and got a taxi to the airport.

I made a mistake about where we checked in and we ended up in the same row, but each in middle seats on each side of the aisle. :/ No chance to change as the flight was booked up. Security was easy at least, didn't have to take my boots off, and I had to tighten them after loosening them up in anticipation. Got to the gate, and went back to the bathroom and Timmy's for water and a bagel. Bit of a cattle call to board, rows 20-38 called first. Over cologned business men next to me but at least they were skinny and there were no babies nearby. Kept my fingers crossed for a transfer in Calgary. Then the business man ate a banana (I hate the smell of them), but at least he dispoed of the peel quickly. I read all the way, and was suprised by the landing bump. We had a bit of a walk in CAlgary, but we came in early and they were just pre-boarding as we got to the ne wgate. I had time to go to the bathroom, and we were together on this flight. The plane was parked basically tail to tail with our plane from T.O. so our luggage made it onto the plane with us, I'd been worried about that due to the short connection time. I had managed to mess up our arrival time when I wrote it down and told Cris's parents, I thought we were getting in at 11:45pm and we were in around 9pm, it was a much shorter flight than anticipated. We got our bags and waited for Cris's dad to show up, he had called and left downtown as we were taxiing. It wasn't too long of a wait though, and a quick ride back to their apartment. We took our stuff up to the condo and fell over.

Monday June 15, 2009

Light and noise woke me up at around 6:30am, but I went back to sleep. I had breakfast at around 9, then Cris and I got out of the way of the packing and headed to Kitsilano for the afternoon. We went to Zulu Records and as usual, I walked out with a pile of stuff (used Skinny Puppy, newish world drums, old Cure and Cocteau Twins). We also hit up the video store, Videomatica, I was tempted by Dance Me Outside, but only bought a video of Dave McKean shorts. We drove to the Tomato Fresh Cafe and had a goo dlunch. It was bright red and sunny in there, a new location. From there we put more money in the meter and walked around, to White Dwarf Books, peeking into stores as we went. Cris got a bike helmet and I got some bike jersey wash at a bike sotre. I got Sue and Jake a wooden wind chime at a Tibetan (?) store, and some soap for me (in a hand made paper bag). I couldn't get into White Dwarf as there was a dog roaming free in there and the clerk warned me off that fur was everywhere. She was a total dog person, not even sorry to lose a potential sale to an allergic person. I think we hit somehwere else as well, oh, right MEC where Cris got more bike stuff for his ride. Lots of other bike shops around there, it was neat. It was getting clsoe to 4pm, so we headed back to the apartment to get ready for dinner.

We went out with Cris's parents to DB Bistro Moderne on W. Broadway. We were an early seating at 5pm I think. There were raised voices from the kitchen, apparently the just profiled chop chop salad had bene messed up and was not available for the evening. Our waiter waived the restriction for our table and Cris's mom was able to order it. I had a florentine tart tatin, lvoely pastry, good filling (I liked it better than the tomato one Cris had). I had the hailbut with a side of spaetzle for my main course, it was quite good. Cris and I shared a chocolate tower for desert which was delicious.

Back the apartment, changed out of my polka dot dress and into pants and comfy shoes and Cris and I walked over to the Scotiabank theatre to see "Up". I skipepd the tea line - it was moving slowly - and just sat and waited in the theatre. The pre movie show was on a much longer cycle than those in teh US. I enjod the movie despite the plot holes. We walked briskly back to the apartment and went to bed.

Tuesday June 16, 2009

Got up at 7am, as the movers were due to arrive at 9am. I ate lots of fruit to help clean out the fridge (mango, asian pear, blueberries, strawberries), cereal with yoghurt and my tea. I started feeling queasy, and had some GI distress, but helped with packing up our bedroom linens. Cris and I took the van out to Granville Island, packed with our luggage and fragile stuff from the apartment, to get out of the way. We thought about taking the harbour ferry, as it left from close to the apartment, but I nixed that idea because my stomach was very queasy. I had a scone and a half sandwich from a kiosk and eaten at the cafe near one end of the net loft I think it was, the main food market area, and my stomach settled enough to browse around the island. I got my blueberry green tea from the tea kiosk. The Peter Kiss gallery was cool, reminiscent of Pat Keck's work, whimsical yet disturbing wooden figures in bright colours. Browsed a neat fibre arts store. The sun came out and I was starting to feel over heated, so I sat for a bit while Cris went off to find a pastry. My door was unlocked as I got into the van but I didn't think to say anything, as I was feeling queasy again.

We went back to teh apartment breifly, and picked up Cris's dad who drove his car and led us to the hotel where we'd be staying for the night. We checked in and I crashed right into bed. I heard Cris come and and go out at times, but I slept through to 5:20pm. It turns out that he'd discovered that his laptop bag was stolen, with his passport inside, and he'd been dealing with the police all afternoon. :/ I tried to jolly him out of his funk, it helped that customs let go his bike and he had it in the van now.

I threw on some clothes and Cris drove us back to West Broadway, to Cru, where I'd made reservations to meet up with Marc and Kat for dinner. It was the other way than where we went to get to DB Bistro. I bought Cris a Manhattan at the bar and Marc and Kat arrived soon after, and we were seated. I was feeling worse, but optimistically ordered the cucumber melon soup and the asparagus rissotto. The bread was a nice white roll. But 2 spoons of soup and I was walking briskly to the bathroom. I spewed out everything. :( I'd already cancelled the rest of my food order, but they were very solicitous and brought me green and peppermint tea and more bread. I was feeling much better for a while and could chat with the rest of them. Their desserts looked amazing as well. I paid for the meal, as I'd promised to do, and vowed to try again to eat there on teh weekend when I came back to Vancouver.

Cris had stepped outside a few times to deal with calls from his worried parents and coordinating meeting his friend Toby at the ShangriLa. he didnt' ahve time to stop at a grocery for crackers and water, so I tried a gas station convenience store on the way to the van. No luck. I had him drop me off at the hotel, and my grand plans to change and find crackers died when I put on my pj's and fell into bed at 8:45pm. Sue called as I was drifting off and I told her not to expect me in Squamish tomorrow unless I called in the morning. I was feeling pretty rough still. I woke up to let Cris in and felt a lot worse for being vertical for that short period of time and went back to bed.

Wednesday June 17, 2009

Cris got up at around 6:50am to meet his parents for breakfast, and I decided to see if I could stand. That went okay and so did walking, so I decided to suck it up and go to Squamish after all (I'd really really regret not trying to get to the Whistler Mountain Bike Park, but hanging out with my sister in Squamish would be a fine fall back plan). I asked Cris to call Sue at 9 to let her know that I was coming and to meet me at the bus station. Quick pack of my tote bag with my biking stuff, and my suitcase with everything else (Cris would take it to the new condo when he and his parents went over to meet the movers). Went downstairs to get a taxi to the Vancouver bus terminal ($9 well spent as I didn't have to think about how I got there). Lots of time to get my ticket at will call (same line as to purchase, no wonder they say to leave an hour). I bought a blueberry scone for breakfast and a bottle of water and picked at it on the ride north on the Sea to Sky Highway. I got a seat in the second row. Put the wind chimes for Sue and Jake in the compartment above my seat. Nice scenery as always, sea to sky is a great route, I watched islands appearing in the water at the bottom of the cliff. Lots of construction for the 2010 Winter Games, though, which slowed us down a bit. I got off the bus at Squamish North depot, and had just got change to call Sue on the pay phone ($2!) when she said not to put it in. :) She bought us return tickets to Whistler Village ($20) and we got back on, a little further back where there was more leg room. We chatted a bit on the way up.

We walked through the shops to the mountain bike rental place at the bottom of the bike park. I popped into the bathroom (still feeling okay but weakish). There were lots of tourists in line getting passes to ride the new Peak to Peak gondola. We each got a three ride pass, put stuff in the lockers after we got our bikes and helmets and arm and leg armour (well, me, she had hers already). The small helmets (with chin guard) worked well for me, though Sue had to tighten it down. Arm and leg armour on, jacket over (it was misty), knee brace under with my mountain biking shorts. And we were off! Sue missed getting her bike (we got the lighter ones) onto the lift the first try, I almost did the same. I rode up without her and met at the top. We took Easy Does it down - green warm up run, but man! it was a challenge! Lots of twists and turns, banked curves, switchbacks, downhills, trees edging the paths, sharp drop offs just off of them. I made it though! We stopped for lunch after one run, as we had started at 11:30am (with a four hour bike rental - we could trade in the 3 ride pass for a half day one for the difference if we wished). I got a cup of soup at the Irish pub and we went up again. We made it onto the lift this time, it's fun to hop off and jog to get our bikes. :) I'm used to skiing on and off the lifts! Sue convince me to try a blue run, the other warm up run, called Crank It Up. Exhilarating but terrifying, steep rollers ending in vertical faces, one with a tiny jump. I fell off the pedals twice when I got air. Tracks on ?. Was mostly fun until the end when it got hella bumpy - there had been washboard before but this was gnarly roots. Made it though. :) Next run, it got busy, we decided to do a mix of greens, not Easy Does It. I was bonking, looking at the corner instead of around it, and freaking out more and braking/skidding, not standing up enough. I wiped out big a couple of times, sliding on gravel once. My rain jacket's arm got shredded between the gravel and the arm armour - thank goodness I'd sprung for the armour though! We saw one biker just in front of us slow down and stop to let a deer across the track. We made it down, finally. One wipe out on a series of switchbacks was after we assumed that a group of 5 would take the black A Line run, but two passed me and shot my concentration (the track was winding through trees, I have no idea how they squeezed past), luckily the next three were able to stop as I got myself up again and going.

Sue and I took pictures at the bottom (people came out of the bottom of the run going too fast to capture), returned the bikes and gear and we had some time to wander before the 4:30pm bus, so we visited Art Gallery Row. I fell almost in love with a red and black print of a raven called Smoke Hole by Alano Edzerza. We went for more food, and never ended up coming back. Thankfully the veggie pannini went down with no problems. We tried on hats at a hat store and meandered around looking for a beach wear store (I wanted to get a halter top tankini for my trip to Long Beach). We saw the bus parked and I got on to save us seats and Sue went to find the bathroom. It was a quick ride, though my adrenaline was still spiking as I recalled the runs! We got off in Squamish North again, walked to the grocery store and got chicken and asparagus and ice cream for dinner. :) I took a shower to get all the dust off, and Sue barbecued and steamed us dinner. Jake had to stay in Vancouver and sort out a nerve issue that could prevent him from driving, but he made it back before I had to go back on the 9:50pm bus. It felt very odd that it stayed light until almost 9:30pm. One other guy was waiting for the bus, Sue waited with me to make sure that the pass she gave me worked (I'd bought a one way online in Boston as I wasn't sure if I'd be staying the night with them), and then I was off south. I nabbed the front seat this time, but totally napped all the way. I was the only one left on the bus by the time we stopped at the main terminal. Short wait for Cris to get me. Didn't take in much of the drive to the new condo in New Westminister, and I just threaded my way through the boxes, found my pj top and crashed.

Thursday June 18, 2009

I woke up a bit when Cris left to do visa stuff at 6:30am, but slept until 8, burrowed in pillows to avoid the light (white room with just venetian blinds, it got bright in there as soon as the sun came up). I was woken up when unpacking began in earnest in the main living areas. Oddly enough, I knew where I was right away. I changed and washed up and went out to brave the chaos. There were techs there installing the internet service, Mrs. C and a maid unpacking. I rinsed out a bowl that had been unpacked and dug out cereal and milk and had one of the blueberry muffins leftover from a Timmy's run. My stomach seemed fine, thank goodness. I wrote in my diary a bit at the table, threading my way through boxes to hide in that corner of the room, and then moved to the bedroom to get a bit of quiet. Cris came back at around 10:30, and I pushed to get us out of the house and on the road by 11. His parents were generous and let us use their mini van for the trip to Vancouver Island. Cris drove us to Tsawwassen ferry terminal after saying goodbye to his parents. It was a quick trip, and we got in line for our ferry before the Victoria one left. We went into the mini mall next to the departure terminal (new since my last trip this way). I got a small salmon crepe, made right in front of me, and Cris had a Chinese dish. I just had time to hit the bathroom and get a London Fog and we had to get back to the van for boarding. Gave my parents a quick call to let them know which ferry we were going to be on. Sat on the sun deck for a while, then moved to cushioned seats inside so Cris could nap - he's short on sleep, need to make sure that he gets lots tonight. We had a smooth crossing, there was barely any wind, and intermittent sun. We had a bit of rain yesterday, clouds at the top of Whistler. I keep finding new bruises from yesterday (I ended up developing bursitis in my right shoulder from one crash, at least that's the theory).

We had a quick drive from Nanaimo to Comox (making one rest stop at the area that has the composting toilets). We got there at around 4:30 or 5pm, and Dad was out at a PT appointment (I think for his shoulder, rotator cuff injury that he got skiing with me :/ ). We sat and talked with Mum for a bit, then went out with Dad when he came back to get Mum's birthday present (a bottle of Abelour that a friend had recommended), as well as some vermouth so we could make Rob Roy's. Back to the house, and I made Cris a Manhattan, and myself a Rob Roy that I made Mum take a sip from. Cris used my dad's computer to print out stuff for the ride tomorrow night. We had fish and baked potatoes and salad and steamed veggies for dinner, the fish with tartar sauce and knobbly mustard was very good. Dad and I helped Cris put together his bike in the garage - I replaced rim tape for the first time, and replaced a tube as well and screwed on the rear rack. We had a hard time getting the front fender on, glad we had the full tool chest available! I stayed up and read for a while waiting for my load of laundry to be done, but Cris went to bed. I went to bed somewhere around 11 or 12. The new wooden floors that Dad put down when he ripped out the carpet looked very nice.

Friday June 19, 2009

I had a nice lie in and got up at 8:30, and Cris was up at 9. I had a no idea where I am dream, about time on this trip! I had a bit of deja vu at the New Westminster apartment, that was odd. I had cereal for breakfast, showered while my tea cooled, and then Cris and I drove out to see about getting new light bulbs for his bike. No luck at 2 shops, though I saw a nice Haida squirrel jersey. :) Then we went back over to Anderton and onto Ryan Road. We went past the old lot where I'd lived when I was 5 to 10 years old. We drove past my old elementary school and then backtracked to Airforce Beach. A cop was lurking past the gate, but let us by without a base sticker. I saw two bald eagles on the other side of the old boat ramp. It was low tide, and I kept pointing out to Cris where I'd hurt myself as a kid. :) We were back at the house at around 11:40am, in time for mustard chicken and rice and peas (using Texas style kidney beans, I might have to try that out instead of the regular dark red kidney beans). We talked a bit more about our travels with my parents and then it was time to pack up my suitcase to leave with Dad and fill up my tote bag to go to Victoria with me. We were on the road at about 1pm. We stopped to get gas and air in the tires (the GPS system was on crack, estimating getting to Victoria in 40 years or so). It was spitting rain while we were driving south on highway 19. We stopped just past Nanaimo at a highway stand and got ice cream and wate. Cris got a coffee and an apple. The family that runs the stand travels a lot, they had pictures under glass at the cashier counter. Onward and southward.

We hit a bit of a traffic jam when 19 ran out and we were on highway 1, the TransCanada, at around Duncan. I started getting really worried as we climbed up and went down Malahat, the route that Cris would ride that night - it was steep, and narrow, with rumble strips. :/ We got to the Fairfield bike shop and they had light bulbs! I sat in the van as we ended up parking in the loading zone for the bike shop (a dead end on a residential street, I was getting worried that the GPS had led us astray again). It was also close to our hotel, we were there soon afterward.

I ran out to get my bus ticket to Tsawwassen for the next morning and spotted The Empress Hotel. I decided to check on the status of the afternoon tea seating, and they were still serving, and I managed to get a table despite my jeans, t-shirt and black runners (I got The Look twice). I ran out to a pay phone and let Cris know that I was delayed by a very important tea. :) I'd wanted to have afternoon tea at the Empress for years, it's renowned throughout Canada. Paul my server was nice, though I got the earl greay instead of the Empress Blend. Nice selection of sandwiches and pastries (the scone was a bit small, but the last chocolate thingy I ate had a cherry hidden inside it!). I was very surprised to get bagged tea, and asked about it when a high muckety muck came to see how I was doing. She said that it was "the same quality of tea" as loose leaf. Hrm. They still didn't give me a saucer to put the steeped bag into when the tea reached my desired strength, though, so I had to tuck the bags under the lid. I had a gorgeous view of Victoria's inner harbour from my table. The tea room was like the inside of a confection box. :) Pillars and murals and wonderful lighting and high ceilings, it was very relaxing after running around so much on this trip. They gave me a free tin of Empress Blend tea with my bill, so I got to try it after all!

Heading back to our hotel, I grabbed Cris a spoon from the Marriott Victoria Inner Harbour's restaurant. He had me run his bike bags down to the front desk, and I checked on the parking terms for leaving the van there. $15/day, get a pass, prepay - it's the safest option. The City lots are marked by P's on the map, others are run by private companies. I verified with PCC that the 8:45-10am bus was going tomorrow (it's not always on the schedule). I went back out, to let Cris sleep, because I was all wired from litres of tea. :) I took pictures and walked around the inner harbour - I saw tall ships and the ferry to Seattle, sea planes landing and a harbour ferry like that in Vancouver. I walked around Laurell Poitn and found a bench and wrote in my diary there, looking across to the Empress. Lots of activity in the harbour! Going to go to the Royal British Museum as it's open until 10pm. Can go back to the room at either 8:30 or 10pm to coincide with Cris's 90 minute sleep cycles. :)

I went to the museum as dusk was falling, walking past the provincial parliament buildings, outlined in white lights and facing the harbour. I spent a good hour going through the Treasures of the British Museum exhibit at the museum, it was very eclectic and didn't have a lot from each country it covered. Then I went through the First Nations exhibit on the 3rd floor. Low light made the totem poles spooky. I also thought that I saw a ghost when I found Captiain Cook's ship, and saw the first of the Amish women visitors standing silently looking at a display. I got chills up my back, it was so quiet in there, but then I found the rest of the group and calmed down. I ran through the maritime section, and the smaller First Nations section. I saw a gorgeous sunset over the harbour, and the Parliament buildings were all lit up now. I hustled home because it was getting cool. I tried to be quiet in the room as I took a nice long bath - I'm so upset that I finaly ahd free time (and my health!) at a hotel with a gym and a pool and a sauna and I didn't have any sports clothes with me, they were all packed into my suitcase with my parents. I said goodnight to Cris when he stirred and curled up in the second bed at around 11pm. Some kids were crying at around 1am, that sucked. :/

Saturday June 20, 2009

Cris got up at around 1am, I asked him to wake me at 1:45am. A bit late, but I had time to throw on clothes and help him get stuff down to the van. He drove down Douglas, and it was closing time at the bars along there, it was kinda nuts. We made it to Timmy's, the staring point for the Hare and Tortoise in Saanich, with only one wrong turn. The organiser, Ken Bonner, rode up, lights flashing, soon after we arrived. I got Cris four bottles of water (he'd lost a water bottle to the laptop bag thief) and a bagel with cream cheese, filled his two bike bottles and gave him the leftover commercial bottle to tuck in his Carradice. The last guy, an expat Brit named Mark, pulled up as Cris was finishing up setting up his packs, and they all went insde to get the cue sheets and time card sorted. I wrote a little bit at another table, but they were quick and soon off. I took a couple of pictures but my camera batteries died and I didn't get one of them leaving the start. It was chilly, so I was fairly awake as I drove very carefully back to the hotel, thankfully on a quiet alternate route. I put the van back in the same parking space, the gates and doors were all locked so I had to use my room key card to get back in. Went up to the room and fell over. It took a while to get to sleep, I kept going over the order of operations for the morning and worrying about Cris climbing out of Victoria.

I woke up with the alarm at 7:45am, ate the bagel I'd got, packed up, double checked the room for forgotten things, and was downstairs trying to clearly explain the "leaving the van for my boyfriend" situation well before I was fully awake. Luckily the front desk staff were awesome, and I was able to prepay for the parking until Cris could come back and get the van, leaving the car key and Cris's suitcase with the front desk, and tucking the claim chit away in a hidden spot on the van. I'd given up the room key at this point and couldn't actually get back into the hotel the way I'd come through to the garage, so I ended up walking around the building once I found a stair case leading up to the outside. I tucked the van key in the agreed upon pocket in Cris's suitcase and left it at the front desk for him to reclaim once his ride was over. I schlepped my stuff the whole two blocks over to the bus station, and picked a line to wait in that seemed to be forming near the Vancouver destination sign. I got a seat near the front, score. The ride up to ferry docks at Swartz Bay was a bit of a blur, it took from 8:45am-9:25am, I just picked out where the route diverged from where Cris had started his ride. At one point I spotted a trio of cyclists, with one wearing a white helmet and a red jacket, and I held my breath until I saw that they were unladen. Best of luck to the ranodueurs. Seems like the wind died off at least. The bus lined up at the front of the parking area where all the cars were waiting for the boat to come in, and we scooted on in the first wave. I grabbed my stuff, thankful that my parents were hauling my suitcase for me, and I managed to get a decent seat with a view forward. There were kids, so I put on my headphones to drown them out and napped a bit. I wandered around a bit to take in the view as we wound through the islands off of Vancouver Island and crossed the Strait of Georgia on our way to Tsawwassen. It's a much shorter crossing than heading between Nanaimo and Tsawwassen, I'd barely settled in when we arrived. This route goes much closer to the islands in the Strait than does the N-T one, it's really pretty. We passed another ferry in a small channel between the islands. I grabbed a scone and some hot water for tea.

It was a bit odd to arrive at Tsawwassen from Victoria when I left it to go to Nanaimo, but this trip has been meandering from the start. I naturally walked over to the shelter that said Passenger Pick up to wait for my dad, and eventually spotted him at the main terminal building, looking for me. I threw my stuff in the car and got into the front seat as Mom was in the back. I had to tell her not to fuss about the jump, as I was nervous enough about it to be seriously considering puking to relieve my nerves. We called the drop zone and got a marginal weather report (low clouds, rain spitting), but headed out anyway. Dad used the TomTom GPS to get us to Abbotsford, taking about an hour, and Sue and Marc were waiting for us in the parking lot there, Sue had already filled out most of the waiver forms and we just had to fill in a few details and sign our lives away. $270 or so for possible death, what a deal. :) We got badges to wear on lanyards around our necks to mark us as jumpers.

There was some confusion, I'm not sure if we were early or late for our 2pm slot, or if they were just pushing everyone through as they arrived. We sat in on the training session (legs bent, arms crossed at first, then you're tapped on the shoulder by your tandem diver, and you open up your arms and spread your fingers) with a group of girls there for a bachelorette party, taking turns lying on the padded bench and demonstrating that we'd listened (I forgot to cross my feet). Then I peeked around the corner into the barn and asked if we could get suits, helmets, goggles and harnesses and we were eventually suited up. I had to ask for a second flight suit as I couldn't get the first one over my hips, and ended up in a baby blue one with odd flower patches. I did snag a black helmet at least, my dad had one that looked like an ice cream cone. Sue had to stuff all her hair under in order to get it to fit, her head is tiny. I snapped a quick picture of the crew stuffing parachutes back into the packs, and a set of jumpers coming in for a landing in the gravel pit (let the instructor land us, keep your knees up and only put your feet down if they tell you to, otherwise prepare for butt-sliding). Then I handed off my camera to Marc (I think he followed through with bringing a flask for Mom to keep her a bit sedated ;) ), and we were herded off to a tent to wait for our turn in the aggressively painted plane. I somehow got tagged to jump in first from the family with my instructor, and he tucked us on the floor with our backs to the pilot, first on. Sue was up on the bench, facing forward, tandem with the owner, and Dad was in front of me, facing back, tandem with the son of the owner.

The sky was clouding over and clearing up, right up until we jumped, I wasn't sure if we were going to get to go. They raced to get us up in the air while the sun was out. The take off was smooth at least. They actually slid the door open (omg right next to me) and then closed it again when the break in teh clouds closed up. I was practicing a lot of deep breathing - did I mention that I'm scared of heights? My heart was pounding fit to burst out of my chest. Then they had us on the floor kneeling so that they could hook us up to our tandem partners - I was barely able to get up on my knees, it was tight in there, and my knees are crap, but I did it. I was a bit worried when my guy tugged on my harness and I felt it tightening (omg was I going to fall out of it halfway down???). Dad was out of the plane first on the real run, and I closed my eyes so I wouldn't see him disappear. I had been watching his instructor's altimeter, it went up to 9,000 feet before I stopped watching it and concentrated on not puking. Then my instructor was nudging me forward, yelling to put both feel outside the plane - it was noisy with the door open and air rushing past and engine noise coming in. Eventually I was hanging off of him with nothing but air rushing past me, my eyes tightly closed. My poor sister had to listen to me scream as the instructor threw us out the door - I think I got the stance right. I reacted to the tap to open up my stance and peeked my eyes open. Then a gentle tug and the chute was open and we were falling (slowly) to earth. The nausea kicked in as we were taking hard turns to stay centered on the landing site, as well as whenever I looked down instead of out. Oddly enough I felt better in freefall, as it was a linear acceleration. Not a whole lot to see, the river snaking past the foothills, and farms below (where I wasn't looking very often). When my instructor asked me how I was doing, I said I felt a bit queasy, and he said to take my goggles off. I double checked to make sure I'd heard what he said, and then slipped them off to lay in the retainer on the helmet. Having the air rushing over all of my face did help a bit, but I had to swallow a few times at particularly sharp corners. I eventually spotted the landing site, I watched one of the women in front of me landing, and we set down gently. I was away from the pit as soon as he unhooked me and I got my foot out of the lines, unsteady on my feet. I skinned out of my gear as soon as possible and went to lay down on the grass, out of the way.

Luckily, Sue had planned ahead (she'd jumped in NZ, and so had Marc), and she shared bits of a bagel with me to settle my stomach. I was eventually able to sit up, and saw the huge face splitting grin on my dad's face, and it was almost worth how bad I felt. :) I kept nibbling on my bit of bagel, and stayed outside for as long as possible for fresh air, just going into the building to get my certificate. Then we piled into the cars and headed out for food. We found a family style pub restaurant called Cheers, oddly enough, just up the hill, and Sue and I got the blandest things on the menu. After a bit more food and water I started to feel a bit better, spring rolls and mint tea helped to settle my stomach. The drive back to Vancouver was fine, Sue splitting off to visit a friend (who'd just given birth) in the hospital and the rest of us going to Marc's house to pick up Kat. Marc had to eat at a set time, so finding a restaurant that could seat all of us without an hour's wait led us to a Vietnamese restaurant, where Sue joined us. I'd gone out and scouted a few places and found long waits, and the place we ended up at had really slow service and the food was decent (I had stir fried chicken and pineapple), but it was quiet at least and we could talk. I was staying over at Marc and Kat's until my return flight on Monday, having booked it then to have a second attempt day for the sky diving if Saturday hadn't worked out, so I settled in there and Mom and Dad left to head back to Squamish with Sue. Marc and Kat and I had a quiet time on the couch, with a laptop, knitting and a book respectively. Kat made us all chamomile tea and I quickly conked out. I had received an email from Cris, he was in Campbell River by 5:30pm. I was in bed pretty early that night, tired from the mid-night send off of Cris and his fellow riders, and I was done by 10pm.

Sunday June 21, 2009

Ah, a day of rest. Unfortunately, my brother didn't get to hang out with me because he woke up with a migraine and spent the day trying to recover from it. I woke up around 10am, made myself an omelet for breakfast (what luxury!), read, used Marc's laptop to catch up online a bit, and lounged around in PJs until 1pm. Kat came back just as I was about to wander out in search of food, she warmed up leftovers (delicious lentil curry) for us and we ate lunch together in the apartment. I finally remembered that I'd had some clothing that hadn't quite dried in Comox, and I put the tops out on the balcony over the chairs there.

After lunch, I glanced at google maps and plotted out a walking tour. I retraced our steps to the restaurant on Main St., walked up there, poking my head in various shops, mostly second hand and vintage stores, looking for a top to match a skirt I have, but mostly enjoying window shopping. At Broadway, turned west, trying to see if I could make it over to Cru to grab dessert and a drink before I had to be back to help make dinner. I ducked into The Dressing Room when I got caught by cute dresses in the window, and tried on a very cute form fitting white and black lacy v-necked number. They were having a sale, I couldn't resist. :) I tried to transfer some cash at a Scotiabank ATM, but the machine had a sign up saying that it was eating US ATM cards. :/ I ducked into a tea and coffee shop and got a london fog, it seems to be on offer all over the place now, though the steamed milk tends to do a number on my stomach. I kept going until I got to Oak St. and turned left there, as it was getting late. It had been spitting a bit, luckily I'd been hauling my rain jacket with me all the way. I zig zagged my way back to Marc's street, walking along Cambie for a while, and then going along quiet side streets and enjoying the riot of colours in the gardens. I'd recommend that walk, and will probably do it again if I stay in that area again.

I got back in time to wash the greens for supper, a big mess of them that took up two bowls. Kat made coconut encrusted salmon filets with the sauted greens for dinner, and Marc was able to eat with us. After dinner, I finished up my book (A Deepness in the Sky) and headed to bed early, as I had to be up before 6am to catch the busses to get to the airport. I'd kept making starts on packing up the bed during the day, not used to getting to sleep in the same place twice in a row. :) Sunset viewed over the city and mountains from their back porch was gorgeous.

Monday June 22, 2009

I woke up with my first alarm and forgot to turn off the second one, dashing back into the spare room to turn it off before it could wake anyone up. I'd said goodbye to Marc the night before (I'm not going to share the pain of a 5:40am wakeup call with him), but Kat woke up as I was leaving the house and I said goodbye to her. I didn't have room to fit leftovers in tupperware in my carry-on bag, but the granola bars saved my tummy later in the day. I walked fairly slowly (had lots of time) over to Main St and the #3 bus stop, trying not to start running with sweat before I even got to my first airport. It was actually a tiny bit chilly, so I was fine, and had time to sit and watch the city wake up as I waited for the bus. The transfer at SE Marine Drive was a bit confusing, the #3 bus driver honking at me and waving me to the other side to catch the #100 toward the airport. Then one more transfer, to the 424, again with the bus driver directing me to the right bay. The airport wasn't too crowded, I was able to check my bag and get rid of it easily, though I'd see it again in Toronto. I'd forgotten that I was basically on a domestic flight, as I was transferring to Boston through Toronto and would go through Customs and Immigration there. So I had a little time to meander and get to my gate and settle in. Everything went smoothly until I got to Toronto.

I followed signs for US transfers, and ended up waiting 20 mins for my suitcase to come out onto the baggage belt. I was starving at that point, and ate one of Kat's granola bars, reading to keep myself distracted. It finally showed up, along with the case of a guy who'd been waiting almost as long as I had been (not a lot of US transfers on my flight from Vancouver), and I was able to go through to the Immigration line. Oh, right, now I recall how annoying it is there, they have a small number of booths for the transfers, and airline personel kept jumping in front of the line. Then a woman in a wheelchair got pushed in front of me. Lucky that I had a 4 hour layover. :/ I was a bit cranky by the time I got up to the booth, and it didn't help that the agent misheard me when I started listing the things I had to declare (written on the back of the form she was looking at) and thought I said "drugs" instead of "dress". :/ I also had filled out an I94 card, since if I don't fill it out, I need it, and if I do, I don't. And I didn't (only have to give it up if I'm leaving North America, or leaving the US to go to Canada or Mexico for more than 30 days (I think, might be 60)). Handed off the form to the customs agent, and then banged my knee hard enough to add to my collection of bruises when I threw my suitcase onto the baggage belt. :/ Then the security line was slow, and the metal detector was set much more finely that it had been in Vancouver, beeping at the rivets on my jeans. :/ Finally got through, boots back on (I wore my Fluevogs for comfort and space in my suitcase), and I was off to my gate.

My gate was close to security, so after spotting it, I doubled back and went down the hall to find the Tim Hortons where I usually end up eating. I nabbed a table that was relatively clean to have my soup and tea biscuit and tea, but was a bit annoyed that the cashier line kept crowding me. Finished up and walked back to my gate... to find that the gate had changed to the one next to Tim Hortons. Schlepped my stuff back there, sat and waited. Delays. Confusion. New gates for other flights. They started boarding my flight, then kicked everyone back off the plane (mechanical failure). Delay. Gate change, back to the original gate! *sigh* Walked back, sat. We started boarding on time, but once they had us on board, they sprang on us that they just had to finish up paper work. And then that due to air traffic stuff, we had to wait at the gate for 20-25 mins. Great. I put on my noise canceling headphones and tried to bury my nose in a book. Finally, we pushed back and got in the air. To turbulence due to thunderstorms. And we had to circle around Boston for a bit, sending my stomach into somersaults at the memory of sky diving. We finally touched down, 2 hours late. I'd asked Carlos if he wouldn't mind picking me up at the airport, and he gets bonus points for staying so late to meet me. Luckily my suitcase came off the plane fairly quickly, and it was a fairly quick drive home. I took a shower to wash off the airports from my skin and collapsed into bed at around 2:30am. I had to be up the next day at 8am in an attempt to get to the rest of a week long meeting at MIT by 9. Didn't quite make it, and was very very very tired all day.

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