A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: spk99ca

New Family Member

There is a new addition to the family. Please welcome Maddix Strachan. He's a 4 month old Lab cross.


Posted by spk99ca 19:05

The Rest of the Journey!

I haven't done a post since Calvin died just over 5 weeks ago. I had the wind taken out of my sails and didn't feel like sight seeing or updating a blog. My buddy Bob in Fort McMurray encouraged me to update the blog because as it sits now it's like a story with no ending. He also said that in a few years I'll look back and be glad I did. So here the rest of my journey:

After Calvin died I stayed in Victoria for another day and half to get his ashes. I am very grateful to the people at Belmont/Langford Animal Hospital. The normal process to get your pet cremated and get the urn is 5 or 6 days. The did this in aa frction of the time and they were very good to me thru the whole process. After getting the urn I drove right to the ferry in Sydney and got the hell off the island. Nothing against Vancouver Island but I didn't want to be there any longer.

I had 2 days in Vancouver before my friend (Heather) flew in for 5 days. This was very good timing because it was so nice to see her while dealing with Calvin and all that goes with it when a pet dies. While waiting I filled the time by going to the movies, golfing and touring the Greater Vancouver Area. It's pretty much like the Greater Toronto Area but with nicer weather and nicer scenery. Here is a pic of me on the 10th fairway at McCleery Golf Course. It was a pretty nice for a municipal course. I rented clubs so the first few holes were interesting while getting used to them.


Heather flew in on Thursday night. Here she is after just getting off the plane.


On Friday morning we took the little ferry over to Granville Island in Vancouver. This is just a little trendy place that has markets, shops and restaurant patios. We had a great day! Here we are on the neat little patio called "Cats Social House" that served Granville Island Beer - very good if you ever get a chance to try it - and the best sweet potato fries ever! Something else I learned here is that when you are finished your dinner, if you put your knife and fork at 4 o'clock on your plate, this is the sign to the waiter/waitress that you are finished eating. Heather mentioned this and I really wasn't buying it, so I asked the waitress and of course I was proven wrong - LOL.


We walked down to the Olympic Village to check it out. Nothing really special, I think we expected more. But we found this massive chair and took a rest. A nice english lady offered to take our photo.


We stayed in Yaletown on Friday night and decided to have sushi for dinner. It was so good and susprisling inexpensive.


On Saturday Heather suggested that we rent bikes and tour Stanley Park. It was a great idea. We saw the whole park in just over 2 hours. I would suggest this to anyone who wants to see Stanley Park.


After Stanley Park we drove to North Vancouver and went up the gondola to the top of Grouse Mountain. It's a bit of a tourist trap but the views are very cool. Also there are grizzly bears living in compound for visitors to see. It was sooooooooo cold t the top. On the ground it was very warm so I was wearing shorts. A big mistake.



On Sunday Heather wanted to go to Manning Park where she worked for a summer while in University. It's about a 2.5 hour drive from Vancouver. Heather took this photo of me while driving to Manning Park. Apparently this is my typical driving position.


We walked around Lightening Lake and took a few pics. It really is a beautiful place.





We stayed the night in Hope, BC. This is the meaning of a bedroom town. There is almost nothing in the city but hotels. Here is a picture from our balcony.


The next day Heather had to catch a plane at 4pm so we decided to drive to a winery then right to the airport. The winery was Lotusland in Abottsford, BC. I really liked the Enigma red wine. It's a Gamay Noir, Pinot Meunier blend, whatever that means. All I know is that all the other reds were very bitter. Here is a picture of Heather tasting a white wine.


After dropping Heather off at the Airport, I drove to Whistler. The Sea to Sky Highway is quite the highway. Very windy. Whistler itself is really only 2 ski areas, Whistler and Blackcomb. The other stuff is just fluff. The village is just a pure toursit trap with not really anything to see. Unless you like shops and restaurants - very standard stuff. I took a few pics in the village.




Olympic Rings in Whistler Village


Whistler ski area

I left whistler and took highway 99 to Cache Creek. This is the most brutal mountainous windy drive I have ever seen. My average speed could not have been over 30 km/h. I think I would have been better off going south to Vancouver and then noth from there.

I stayed the night in Cache Creek and then drove to Calgary to my cousin Shaun's house. In Banff I stopped to take a few pics of these mountain goats. Very cool!



I stayed in Calgary for a week and a half. Didn't do any site seeing as I already saw pretty much everything there was to see when I was there in August. What I did do was drink a lot of beer with Shaun and sit in the hot tub every night - LOL. I must say that I miss that tub!

It was Kim's birthday while I was there. Here is a picture of Kim and her friend Susie in the backyard sitting by the fire. I missed her actual party on Saturday because I left for Fort McMurray on the Friday. Sorry Kim!


Kim is opening her birthday present from Jo Ann


Kim and Shaun in their backyard


I really enjoyed hanging out with Shaun, Kim and Jo-ann. It was exactly what the doctor ordered after everything I went through with Calvin. They treated me like gold and I am grateful to them.

Shaun and I did put hardwood floor in their dining room area one day. I don't have a picture but I wish I did because I thought we did a pretty good job.

One day I went to Bison Transport where Shaun works. It was very cool. Bison is a huge trucking company and Shaun is the Yard and Maintenance Supervisor. A very impressive position. After looking at the size of the lot and building I can see that he's got a lot of responsibilities. Shaun spoiled the hell out of me. It happened to be driver appreciation day while I was there so I had a fill of Tim Horton's coffee and donuts. Then he bought sushi for lunch. Man, I had a great time. I wish every work day was like this - LOL.

After leaving Calgary I drove 8 1/2 hours north to my buddy Bob's house in Fort McMurray. This is long drive but well worth it. I stayed with Bob and his family for 12 days and I had a great time. They treated me like family. I arrived in Fort McMurray on a Friday and on Saturday, Bob's daughter Katie had a concert at MacDonald Island in Fort McMurray. They play a native style music and were fantastic! Here is a picture of Katie and her band.



I played the Wii with Bob's kids, Katie and Conner. It was a blast!. They kicked my ass everytime but I had great time. Thet really brought out the kid in me. This is Conner and his friend Chance playing the Wii


Katie is 11 and Conner is eight. Here is a pic of all 3 goofing around:


Conner and Katie wanted to show me their room.


On Sunday Bob and I went four-wheeling just outside of town. It was a lot of fun. I hadn't been on a four-wheeler for years. Here is a pic of me getting stuck in a huge mud puddle!


The fall colours were beautiful. Here is a pic of Bob and the four-wheelers over looking a big valley.


The next day I went the the "Oil Sands Discovery Centre." If you are ever in Fort McMurray this is a "must see." It tells you everything you need to know about the Oil Sands. I learned how the oil is taken out of the sands and all about the Tailings Ponds that result from this operation.

The following day I went for a bike ride all over the city. I got lost several times. Fort McMurray has an awesome set of bike trails right in the city. This is better than any city I've seen. I'm not just talking about paved paths, these are dirt/wood chip paths that tke you right thru the forests in the city. On my travels I found that they have outdoor fitness equipment in this park. Very cool!


The next day I went golfing at a place called Quarry Ridge. It's a nice little par 3 course with a couple par 4's mixed in. My shoulder was still killing me from falling in Port Hardy so I decided to play a smaller course. It was aa very nice day. I had a hard time finding my ball on almost every hole because of the leaves on the ground. But the greens were in fantastic condition so I was happy I decided to play.

On the Thursday, Bob was nice enough to give me a tour of his work - Suncor. I honestly was blown away. Suncor is just an amazing place. The Oil Sands are and absolutely huge operation. Everything is humoungous. My house could fit in one of the gigantic hulers - dump trucks. We toured the tailings ponds and a lot of the new areas Suncor is getting ready to mine. It's very impressive and I'm thankful to Bob for taking me. Anyone who tours the oil sands operations can't help but come away with a different opinion of the companies and employees working their.

The biggest thing that hit me was just how much care these companies put into being environmentaly friendly. There are millions and millions of dollars spent to ensure the environment is not disrupted. Also, safety is a gigantic deal at Suncor. I understand why know after touring it. Danger is everywhere if the workers are not careful.

Suncor has a policy of no photos on site so the only picture I got was outside the gates.


On Friday, we went on a 3 day 4-wheeling trip. This was for sure one of the hi-lites of my trip. Bob's neighbour, Gord, lent me his quad.

There were 5 of us. Here is a pic of the other 3 guys:


From left to right is Gary, Shannon and Gord.

We left Fort McMurray and drove north on HWY 63 for about an hour to where the winter road statrs. As the name says this road is only open to trucks in the winter. It's all sand and very bumpy.

We off loaded and started on our journey up to a place called Six Lakes. It's about a 3 1/2 hour quad ride from the drop off point.


The road was very bumpy so everything had to be starpped down so it couldnt move. Anything loose gets shaken and destroyed. I learned this the hard way with our Subway subs. I put them in a side pocket area but since there was room for them to move around they were totally uneatable - LOL

Six Lakes area is beautiful. The lakes were so clear. Here are a few pics:



This picture was very cool when we stopped along the trail. It was a total contrast of colour. All the green trees surrounding the yellow leaves. I'm not sure if the picture does this scene justice. When Bob and I were looking at it we were very impressed.


On Saturday we went fishing. Bob took this pic of me and the 4-wheeler I was driving:


Here is Bob relaxing on his quad:


Bob then snuck one of me while relaxing/fishing.


On Saturday night we wnet for a midnight ride. We stopped off t this camp site to have a beer. These guys turned their trailer into a tent trailer so they wouldn't have to sleep on the ground, very neat.


On Sunday we got up and pcked in the rain. Here is a pic of us stopping on the way back dealing with the weather.


When we got back to Bob's, Conner and Katie made this sign up for us. Very Cute!


I had a great time on this trip. I'm glad I stuck around Fort McMurray to go!

Here are a few more pics of Katie and Conner.

Conner raking leaves.


Katie eating breakfast.


Conner playing the Wii.


Here is a pic of Katie and Conner playing on my laptop before going to school.


I also need to mention Bob's caregiver, Melanie. I didn't get a photo of her but I wish I did. She treated me very well during my stay and I want to thank her!

I had a great time in Fort McMurray. Bob, Katie, Conner and Melanie made me fell like part of the family. I am very grateful to them!

I left Fort McMurray on the Tuesday and headed home.

The lyrics from a Gratetful Dead song "Truckin" seemed perfect to describe my 3 month journey:

You're sick of hangin' around and you'd like to travel
Get tired of travelin' and you want to settle down
I guess they can't revoke your soul for tryin'
Get out of the door and light out and look all around

Sometimes the light's all shinin' on me
Other times I can barely see
Lately it occurs to me
What a long, strange trip it's been

Truckin', I'm a goin' home
Whoa, whoa baby, back where I belong
Back home, sit down and patch my bones
And get back truckin' on

Posted by spk99ca 17:20

Bye Bye Stinky :(

0 °C

Well this is definitely one of the hardest days I've ever had to deal with. Calvin died this morning when we were walking at Bear Mountain Resort just outside Victoria. He was slowing down but you don't really want to think about the end. I had him for just over seven years and am going to miss him badly.


Posted by spk99ca 14:11

Penticton to Port Hardy

well I reached the apex of my travels when I reched Port Hardy. In case you have no idea where this is, it's about as far north as you can go on Vancouver Island.

Penticton is the lower end of the Okanagan Valley. Really nothing special. Especially since they don't even allow dogs to walk on a sidewalk about 40 feet from the beach. This nazi lady runs over and told me I couldn't walk Calvin in this area. I'm sure it was the high-lite of her day.

I then drove to Manning Park. This is between Princeton and Hope. It is a real mountain drive. Very hilly and windy. A friend of mine worked there for a summer and told me I should visit. Very cool place. It was a real mountain experience. I camped and almost froze to death. I couldn't believe how cold it got. There was frost on the car windows in August. WOW. I then drove up to the top of the mountain right across from the resort. Very high up. Saw 2 wolves and many deer on the way up.


Then drove into Vancouver. Nothing to spectacular. Went to Kitsilano Beach. Very Nice. Awsome area and also very pricey.


Took the ferry the next day to Nanaimo. OMG. It now costs $59.65 for a car and one person. Calvin was gratis. That's just one way. Apparently, according to a local i was speaking with in Comox, BC Ferries makes money on the Nanaimo and Victoria crossing but loses money on all the other smaller island crossings. Not sure about this but she tried to convince me. Dogs are not allowed on the main decks of these ferries so Stinky and I stayed on the 4th level car deck. We were the 2nd last car on the ferry. Very lucky, would have had to wait almost another 3 hours in line.


Stayed the night in Nanaimo. This is the "Habour City". Now I know why it's called that. There is nothing else to see but the harbour. There's one main street and the harbour. That's it.


Next day went up to the Comox Valley. This is just a fancy name for Courtney, Comox and Cumberland. We went to some place near the waterfront called Goose Spit - gross name. Very nice beach. A local lady filled me in on what I should be seeing while in the area. So I follwed her advice and went to Mount Washington - the local ski area. Holy cow is it ever a steep climb to the top. I couldn't imagine doing this in the winter everytime I wanted to go skiing. My poor van made it but I felt sorry for it when we got to the top. If anyone ever tells you that there isn't any big mountains on Vancouver Island, don't believe them. Then we went to some place near the ski hilled in Strathcona Provincial Park and Paradise Meadows. It was a nice hike but hardly lived up to the name.


Next day made the drive to Port Hardy. It's about 4 hours or something from Comox to Port Hardy. Stopped in Campbell River - the home of Salmon fishing in BC. Apparently there is this channel that the salmon have to swim thru while swimming up the Georgia Strait. The locals think it's a great thing but looking at the big picture, if you can't catch salmon in this area you should probably "hang up" your fishing pole for life. Campbell River has the longest salt water fishing peir in the world. The locals must be so proud!


Port Hardy has a very desolate feel to it. It feels like you are in the north pole without the freezing cold. Another thing is that it has a fresh smell when you get out of your car. I've never seen anything like it. When the tide goes out all the salmon start jumping in the harbour. Dozens of salmon are jumping by the second. It's very tempting to grab a net.


On to Tofino and then Victoria.

Posted by spk99ca 22:14

Calgary to Kelowna

ok, not sure where to start. Left Calgary and went to Banff. Not really much in Banff but a lot of Chinese tourists. Took a few pics because the mountains are so cool.


Then took the Bow Valley Pkwy from Banff to Lake Louise. Good thing I did as I took a million photos of these elk (I think they are elk, maybe caribou, can't tell the difference). Some Texan was there as well taking pics. This guy thought he was the uber hunter of all time. He kept telling me which one was the "boss hog" of the group. He said he could tell by the dressing on their back end. I didn't disagree because he probably had a Winchester in his truck.


Drove to Moraine Lake next. I remember being there as a kid. Not that big but the view is amazing. Stinky doesn’t like to get his picture taken so we had to have a chat before I took this one.


Lake Louise is very nice but I think totally over rated. Again full to Chinese tourists even at 7:30 in the morning. This lady couldn’t speak a syllable of English and just walked up to Stinky and I guess told whoever she was with to take her picture with him. Not much I could do without causing a scene. He doesn’t look impressed.


My next stop was Field, BC. A hippie type town with lots of art just across the BC border. I had the most amazing breakfast sandwich at this little “hole in the wall” restaurant. The coffee was totally good as well. The only downside is that these hippies aren’t really in a hurry to serve you, but, it was worth the wait.

I decided that I would stop at 3 locations in Yoho National Park before moving on. You could spend a lifetime looking at everything in all these National Parks. The best spot was Emerald Lake. This place is way better than Lake Louise.


I then drove thru Golden, BC and down to Radium Hot Springs. I had to see what all the fuss was about with these springs. So I paid the $6 and went into the pool. It was VERY hot. I asked the lady who worked there if it was heated coming off the mountains and see said that it’s naturally hot. I’m from Missouri on this one.


I drove down to Kimberley, BC. Not much here but a very nice Ski Resort. It’s one of the highest points in the Rockies. I also learned that the Rockies don’t mean all the Mountains in BC. It’s just the one chain that runs along the Alberta/BC border and down into the US. I’m sure I’m not the only one who thought this!


The next stop was Cranbrook, BC. Nothing here except the mountains. I must say that the drive from
Golden to Cranbrook is very nice. You follow the Rockies the entire way on your left side. I would recommend it to anyone traveling to BC.

I stopped for the night in Creston. If this sounds familiar it’s because it’s the polygamist capital of Canada. The only other claim to fame it has is that it’s the home of the Kokanee Brewery, so it can’t be all bad. I had the biggest Chelsea bun I’ve ever seen in Creston. It was the size of a small pizza. My dad used to get these for us all the time as a kid. I haven’t had one in like 20 years so of course I had to buy one.


My next journey was to get to Nelson, BC. The drive is awesome. It goes right thru the Kootneys. Highly recommended. I followed Kootney Lake up to Kootney Bay and got the ferry over to Nelson. I stopped many times to get pictures of Kootney Lake. Halfway we got behind a truck painting lines on the road now I have paint all over the inside if my wheel wells. Not sure how this happened.


After getting off the ferry it was about a 25 min drive down to Nelson. This is a cool place. Built right on the side off a mountain. I haven't seen streets this steep since I was San Francisco. This is the Marijuana Capital of BC according to everything I have pieced together. It used to be a major logging area until the early 1980’s but then closed for some reason. So the town found “Pot” as a way to survive.


This is a long update for sure. Next day I made it to Vernon, BC. Another amazing but long and windy drive. I passed thru the Slocan Valley. Major hippie area. I stopped at this cafe. A lot of people where wearing Bob Marley hats and smoking weed like it were cigarettes. They were all very nice.


I found my favourite town in BC so far. Nakusp, BC. Never heard of it before and it’s far from anywhere. It’s clean, quiet, has a beautiful lake setting and the ultimate mountain town.


The drove to another ferry. It’s called Needles Ferry and it must be the shortest ferry ride in the world. It’s only 4 mins long – lol. I’m sure a bridge is coming in the near future. You can see the entire length in this pic.


The drive from the ferry to Vernon was a real patience tester. There is almost zero room to pass because the road is so hilly and windy. Vernon is not really that nice of town. It has brutal drivers and almost as much construction as Guelph. Leaving was the best part.

Between Vernon and Kelowna is an area called Lake Country, BC. This gives you the real “Okanagan Experience. Awesome pictures of the Okanagan Lake mixed in with endless orchards. The Okanagan’s are the Muskoka’s of BC. Very similar.


And finally Kelowna. Very nice but very busy town. It’s the heart of the Okanagan Valley. Here is a picture of the waterfront.

On to Penticton then Manning Park, BC

Posted by spk99ca 10:13

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