Tuesday, October 03, 2017

Big, Beautiful British Columbia

In 1964 British Columbia adopted the slogan "Beautiful British Columbia" for its license plates. Well, I think the time has come to really capture the essence of this province's grandeur and ratchet up the adjectives.  A morning sky can be "beautiful" --- but some of the scenery we've seen in the last month defies such a mundane word.

Another revelation is that there is life after boating and it's been fantastic exploring the island with our trailer.  Just 30 minutes from our home is Englishman River Falls.  We've passed the sign for it a hundred times and after a recommendation from friends, decided to go there for a couple of days.

The campground was quiet as a church and smelled of fir trees that stood so tall, they formed a canopy over our trailer.  We went for walks and could hear the water falls long before we saw them.  Even with the water levels being low, the falls were still impressive.

We were invited to a pancake breakfast at our clubhouse on the Sunday morning, and because we were close by, we got to enjoy the gathering and meet more of our neighbours.  We are constantly amazed at how many people that live in Qualicum Landing are from Alberta; many bought years ago in preparation for retirement and are now in the process of "living the dream".

Last week we headed west to Tofino; a place that is one of my favorite spots on the island and one I've never seen in the sun.  Until this time.

It was glorious.  Our campground made all other campgrounds pale in comparison.  Located in a pristine forest overlooking Long Beach, we could hear the waves crashing from inside our trailer.  A short walk led us to the expansive beach with miles of shoreline to explore.
Green Point Campground in the Pacific Rim National Park

Long Beach is aptly named

Huge clumps of kelp and sea onions spotted the beach

The campsite was really private and the trees even more majestic than our last campground

With fire bans finally lifted, we could have a real campfire while drinking gin and tonics

Morning light shining through the trees

Tofino's marina
There is a great vibe around Tofino.  Top knots, surfboards, Aussie accents, and words like "gnarly" pepper conversations and paint a picture of a community borne of adventure and young people communing with nature.
A surfing competition was held at Cox Bay so we sat on a piece of driftwood and caught a few rounds of the action.

Watching the sun set from one of the campground's lookout points

A rugged bay in Ucluelet.  The black rock reminded us of the Big Island, but without the palm trees

Happy days.  I'm not sure why I try and take all the selfies being that I have the shortest arms!

A trip to Tofino would not be complete without stopping by Tacofino for their fish and tuna tacos.  It's an iconic food truck where locals and tourists alike flock to a parking lot where it has been tucked away in the back for years without the benefit of traditional advertising or signage.  There were 50 people lined up when we were there -- good news travels fast and we again had a great lunch.
Tacofino started in 2009 and has now expanded to Victoria and Vancouver
It's been a great month of settling into our new home.  Roger has created a man cave in his garage complete with bar fridge, bar stools, his tools and a new rowing machine.  I don't think the chances are good that I'll be parking in it anytime soon.  But that's o.k. - you don't have to shovel rain.

So back to the license plate slogan conundrum.  I think the plates could read, "Spectacular British Columbia", or "Breathtaking British Columbia".  Anyway you slice it, the scenery I see every day is spectacularly breathtaking.

"The earth has music for those who listen."
                                                            George Santayana

Friday, September 08, 2017

Summertime, and the livin' is easy....

The summer of 2016 was fraught with drama and near death experiences.  This summer, was sunshine, lollipops and rainbows.

June started by me welcoming Roger's mom and sister for a visit.  With the project in Costa Rica finished, Roger made it home the day before they left.  It was a relief seeing him tour the house that I bought and furnished in his absence -- he gave it a two thumbs up and said it was even better than the pictures I sent him.  Phew!

Roger and his mom down at our beach
Roger was away for this 60th birthday so the night after he came home I invited some of our friends for dinner.  We walked down to the beach for dessert and a campfire; something I knew Roger would love doing.
Left to right:  Roger, Rob Perry, Jodi Ikert, Barb Perry, Paul Ikert, Rhonda and Madalane
We always have fun when Dwayne and Annette Majcher come to visit so were thrilled when they popped up from Victoria where they have a condo to see our new place.  The original plan was to just stay for lunch and in true Kinley/Majcher fashion - they ended up staying for breakfast.

We had a campfire by the beach, watched eagles soaring overhead, seals swimming near the shore and there was even a whale sighting.  

Then in early July we headed to Calgary for a whirlwind family reunion.  We had a great time and it was terrific having so many attend.
Roger in the background, Brad, Magnus, John and Zunny

The family!
Back row left to right:  Cooper, Colin, Chris, Brad, Tyler, Samantha, Kathy, Roger, Jack
Front row left to right:  Anette, Walter, John, Heather, Rhonda, Siu

After Calgary we brought Anette and Magnus on a road trip to Idaho where we got our new trailer set up at Rusty Tractor Springs.  The Moes now own the property, but we were able to camp there this year.  
Magnus loves anything mechanical and happily spent time with Roger as he puttered on the trailer

Anette and Magnus enjoying the beach at Priest River
Once we dropped Magnus and Anette off at home, we headed to Sidney on the island and got on Tranquillo for a couple of weeks of cruising the southern Gulf Islands.  The weather was perfect as we spent a couple of days at Todd Inlet where we visited  Butchart Gardens, then went to Ganges Harbour where we experienced their famous Saturday Farmers Market, and then we spent a couple of days at Montague Harbour where Roger successfully caught more crab than we could eat.

Tranquillo at Ganges Harbour on Saltspring Island

The long awaited crab feast at Montague Harbour
While we were cruising we talked about whether we should keep the boat or if it was time to sell it.  Despite living on the coast, we haven't used it as much as we thought we would.  And admittedly, I was eyeing the VHF radio with a different outlook after Roger's heart attack --- wondering if there would be a time I'd have to send an emergency call from a secluded anchorage.

At the end of the cruise we decided it was time, so took a couple of days to unload our possessions and clean it up.  We have a group of people in Kelowna who just put a deposit on it, and they are very excited about having Tranquillo shipped to them.  We know they'll love the boat as much as we did. 

Many people are shocked that for the first time in a very long time we don't own a boat.  Never say never, but for right now we're going to embrace our adage, "less is more".

After the boat we headed back to Seattle for a quick visit with the kids and then flew to Kansas City for a week.  Roger had meetings with Colin and Andrew regarding a job in Arizona and I got to spend time with Karen.  She has been going through a living hell after cancer surgery and I got to take her to her 11th chemotherapy treatment.  Karen has soldiered through very difficult side effects with humour and strength and we're so very proud of her.  

I was very happy to help with practical things to help her and by the end of the week she was fondly calling me Consuelo.  

Dinner time!  Left to right:  Roger, Karen, Colin, Cooper and me

August found us back in Idaho for a couple of weeks and having fun in our old haunts:  The Beardmore Bistro Wine Bar and Tap House, Willow Bay, and the Festival at Sandpoint.

One goal Roger and I had when returning to Priest River was to meet and personally thank Officer Dan Burkey.  He was our guardian angel the night Roger had his heart attack, and coming across his police car in the grocery store parking lot was truly the tipping point in getting Roger medical care quickly.

We were thrilled when Dan and his wife, Ashley, and two of their four children joined us for dinner at Willow Bay.  Dan is our hero, has served his country in Afghanistan, and is a devoted husband and father.  And all around great guy.

The three of us recounted August 28, 2016 and Roger and I couldn't believe how much Dan remembered despite countless other calls he would have attended in the past year.  As the evening wrapped up, Roger hugged Dan and thanked him again.  I told the Burkey family that (whether they liked it or not!) we will always be a part of their lives, and would love if they visited us on the island.  What a wonderful evening and what a fabulous family.

Left to right:  Cohen, Ashley, Kinley (yes! Their 4 year old daughter's name is Kinley!), Dan, me and Roger
Going to the Festival at Sandpoint is a summer ritual that is on our "Must Do" list.  This year we went to see George Thurogood of "Bad to the Bone" and "One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer" fame.  A great time was made even better by having Paddy and Dave Carlson and Shelagh and John Slater join us.  The food...the wine...the festival vibe all added up to a stellar evening.
Left to right:  me, Paddy, Shelagh, John, Dave and Roger
After staying in Idaho a couple of weeks, we headed to Whitefish, Montana with Dwayne and Annette Majcher, for the wedding of a very special couple, Whitney and Ryan.  Whitney's parents are good friends, Ed and Colleen Walsh from our Sunhaven Road days and we've known Whitney since she was about 4 years old.  The four of us were honoured to be seated with Colleen and Ed at the reception and we had a fabulous time.
Dwayne and Annette brought a trailer to Whitefish so we had a great time camping amidst wedding festivities.

Such a beautiful wedding at Whitefish Lodge by the lake.  
After a quick pit stop in Idaho to pick up our remaining personal effects from the property, we headed to Dash Point State Park just south of Tacoma, Washington.  We got set up and the next day went to Bothell and picked Magnus up for two days of camping.  

The beach on Puget Sound was gorgeous and provided a great place for Magnus to play in the sand at low tide.

Magnus hitched a ride with RaRa until we could hose off his sandy feet!

Because of campfire bans throughout the state, we bought a propane fire pit so Magnus could still make s'mores -- one of his favourite camping past times.
We arrived back in Qualicum Beach on August 25th and it was so good to be home!  Roger had only slept in the house for a few nights and he immediately launched into building shelves for the garage.  I love having him home, and he's been meeting the neighbours and enjoying the community like I do.

One of the reasons we decided to sell the boat was for us to use our new trailer to explore Vancouver Island.  We did just that this past week when we went to Salmon Point near Campbell River for three days.  We joined Barb and Rob Perry who brought their trailer too. We lucked out and had an ocean view site and the first day and evening were spectacular.  Smoke from wildfires blew in for the next two days so we were glad we got to see it in all it's glory.

Dinner with a view
Left to right:  Rob and Barb Perry, Roger and me

The sunset was breathtaking which was made spectacular when someone started playing Amazing Grace on bagpipes.

Smoke turned the blue skies grey and shrouded the islands so they were barely visible.
We're back home and happy to hang out for awhile. There may be a camping trip or two this fall but in the meantime, we're just going to enjoy being together in our new home.  

It was a summer of fun, friends and family.    Just the way summers should be.

"Some of the best memories are made in flip flops".
                                                                                    Kellie Elmore

Thursday, June 01, 2017

May Daze

I had no sooner got settled into our new home, then I was packing my bag and heading to Bothell to spend a week having fun with one of my favourite Kinley boys.....Magnus.

Brad and Anette flew to St. Lucia to celebrate their 10th anniversary and I got to hang out with Magnus and got a refresher course on keeping up with a 4 year old.  Magnus was really good for me that it was far easier than I expected and he reminded me so much of Brad at that age that I often found myself calling him "Brad".

Brad at 4
 It was fun chauffeuring him to music appreciation, gymnastics, pre-school (where I was a parent volunteer one day), and to swimming.
We went to the Seattle zoo and spent an interesting few hours exploring exhibits and checking out the animals.

Magnus loves to read as much as Brad (and I'm sure Anette as well).  Trips to the library are a must!

After a week, Anette's folks came and took over the reins for the last week and I headed home for 3 days.  I really missed Magnus -- he has such a great sense of humour, and the two of us had a very special time together.  He just cracks me up.

I repacked my bag, and headed south to Costa Rica to visit Roger.

I took a 12 seater plane from San Jose to Limon, and was treated to a display of  a volcano erupting in Costa Rica.

The island you see is the project Roger is working on. It will be a
computerized container port for bananas and pineapples to be exported.

Roger warned me Limon, where he is working, is not the resort type place people associate with Costa Rica.  Taking the advice of our friend, Dwayne, I aimed low and avoided disappointment.  But first he surprised me with a weekend in Puerto Viejo - a seaside town an hour south of Limon where we kicked back, drank Margaritas and ate some great seafood.

Puerto Viejo is a backpackers destination a long with rastafarians and mid-aged men in pony tails.

On our way back to Limon, we stopped for a hike through Cahuita National Park.  It was fabulous hearing the ocean crash nearby as we walked through a rain forest.  We kept our eyes open for wildlife and were lucky to see a good selection.

I love leaf cutter ants.  They carry 3 times their weight and are incredibly industrious. 
A banana snake which we found out later are extremely poisonous.  

A very prehistoric looking lizard

Lots and lots of monkeys

Roger took this picture of a sloth on a previous trip to the park.
I'm sure they saw us, but we couldn't find any the day we were there.
 For all our driller friends - I took a couple of pictures of an abandoned drilling project from 1910.

The house is in a compound with about 15 of the guys from the project living in a house and a motel like building.  Only the bedrooms were air conditioned, and Roger didn't want me exploring on my own, so I spent a lot of time reading and watching TV.

Our crack guard dog.  At least he was at the front of the house......

Limon is a port city with a population of about 55,000 on the east coast of Costa Rica.  It was founded in the 1800s and has survived it's share of earthquakes and hurricanes.  And it shows.  Having said that, I found people friendly and many spoke English.

A view of the city and port from a great hill top restaurant 

One of the best parts of the week, was spending time with our nephew, Chris, who is also working on the project.  He is smart, kind and fun.  It's the longest I'd ever spent with him and loved it.  I'm glad he and Roger have had each other to hang out with.

It wouldn't be a project without having a  BBQ for some of the workers.  I enjoyed cooking 2 nights and enjoyed getting to know some of the local "Ticos", and staff from California.

Clockwise from left:  Roger, me, Alberto, Ally, Conner, Juan and Chris

One day he had a super guy, Luis, who does work for the project sometimes, take me on a tour of Limon.  It gave me a chance to practice my Spanish and I was relieved and surprised to remember Spanish words I hadn't spoken in 6 years.

Limon would never be described as pretty, but this building with the multi colored windows was neat.
 I love going through markets throughout the world and seeing the fresh fruits and vegs.

Luis took me to see his 90 year old grandmother.  She was amazing and showed me her beautiful garden and sent me home with a bag of mangoes from her trees.

The ocean was super warm but very rough all week.

I went on a Ceviche tasting quest -- this one was pretty darned fabulous.
The day before I left, Chris, Roger and I went down to the beach.  We met one of the guys from the project and chatted for several minutes.  I then said I'd go check out the water that was probably 50 ft from us, and gave Roger my camera while I put my purse down beside him.

 Roger then handed the camera to Chris to take a picture of the two of us.
 And then a rogue wave came and swept right past us as well as Chris......
That moment of realization when I saw my purse -- complete with passport,
phone and wallet --- starting to fill up with sand and water......
I dashed to my purse and scooped it up.  Fortunately my passport wasn't damaged, my wallet dried out and my phone was also spared.  Close call.

By Sunday it was time to start heading home.  I flew to San Jose on the little plane I came to Limon on.  Only this time, it wasn't sunny with blue skies.  There were storms all around and it was a sphincter clenching trip to remember.

Leaving Limon
Shortly after heading west to San Jose it got bumpy.  And then REALLY bumpy.

I could only see white outside the windows and the GARMIN radar of the plane's panel had big splotches of red and yellow.  I assumed that wasn't good. The pilot and the female co-pilot periodically spoke to each other, and alarm bells sounded enough to give me a flash back to watching a movie about Buddy Holly and how he died in a plane crash during bad weather.

At one point the pilot made an announcement, but neither me nor the only other adult passenger understood what he said.  After a half hour of turbulence and not being able to see anything, the clouds cleared enough for me to see San Jose in the distance so I started to relax thinking we'd be on the ground soon.

But then the pilot flew right past the airport.  And we kept flying.  I whipped out the airline's magazine and looked at the map trying to figure out where we might be going and wondering how I could make my 6:30 a.m. flight the next day.

After about 10 minutes, the plane banked and we headed back.  It was a relief, but the red lights still lit up the plane.  It wasn't until we touched down did I really exhale.  The pilot and co-pilot actually kissed each other when we came to a stop!

I got back home safe and sound and happy to be on the island.  Roger is hoping to be home by June 23rd and he is excited about seeing the house.  And to get out on the boat.

There is a saying in Costa Rica:  "Pura Vida".

It literally means "pure life", but it means so much more.  It speaks to the Ticos' easy going nature and their optimistic spirit.  It conveys that things are going well and another way of giving thanks.

Pura vida.