Archive for the ‘Calgary’ Category

Chasing away the hunger. Prehistoric vistas. Down the Choquihalla. Flatlands near Vancouver

Saturday, July 25th, 2009

When we woke up this morning we cannot say we had a defined plan in place for the next two to three days.  Our original plan from Sicamous was to drive south to Kelowna – located in the Okanagan Valley.

However, Kelowna (or just across the lake from it) has been under siege from bushfires over the past few days and thousands of people have been evacuated from their houses.  With this in mind, we asked Gary to cancel the bookings he had made for us and decided to “take it as it comes”.

What we did know was that we were going to continue driving toward Vancouver and, once there, firm up our plans.

After a light breakfast, a shower and a re-pack of the car we checked out of the hotel and started our drive West again.

The Trans Canada route follows the Shuswap Lakes in the direction of Kamloops – a very pretty drive.  The lake is obviously very deep because the water is a beautiful dark blue colour.  In parts, the spruce trees line the lake and in other areas it is surrounded by steep mountains.  At this time of the year, the “boaties” are making the most of the beautiful weather so the lakes were dotted with all sorts of watercraft.  Maybe we should have hired a houseboat for a couple of days and kicked back on the water!!  Now why didn’t I think of that before typing this.

We fueled up in the small town of Salmon Arm and again, I was pleasantly surprised with the economy of the truck.  I guess modern technology has resulted in V8 engines running somewhat more efficiently than in the past.  Still not the economy of the hybrid we had during our recent trip to the US but it is not breaking that bank either.

The town of Chase is located along the route and we decided to stop there for lunch.  Chase is located on the Western reaches of the Shuswaps and it is another small well kept town.  The Princess’ sister, Diane, owns some property in Chase and we can understand why after our short visit.

We found a wonderful little deli’-cum-restaurant called Simply De Vine.  Our initial plan was to have morning tea but the menu looked very inviting so we decided to eat an early lunch.  A good decision because the food was very tasty!

We took a drive around Chase (it didn’t take too long!) before returning to the main highway in the direction of Kamloops.

The scenery changed quite dramatically as we left the Shuswap Lake region.  Not too far to the West of Chase the highway emerges from the spruce forests and passes through ancient river valleys.  The land became quite arid in places and with the smoky haze and the warm temperatures it felt like we were driving in parts of Australia.  Interesting!

There was nothing inviting in or around the city of Kamloops so we bypassed the town and started the long trip back up to the mountains.  As  you leave Kamloops behind and below the landscape changes quickly back to mountain vistas.

You can travel from Kamloops to Vancouver via several routes but the one we took is the quickest.  The road passes through an area called the Choquihalla Pass  – an area know for its avalanches.  This pass was opened in 1986 and before that time the trip would have been substantially longer and more challenging during the winter months.

The trip down the Choquihalla Pass is quite beautiful – all downhill (heading West that is) and at times through avalanche tunnels.  At different places along the road there are gun emplacements.  During winter, they mount a gun to these emplacements and fire projectiles into know avalanche areas on the surrounding mountains.  They create avalanches periodically to prevent extreme avalanches occurring.  This allows the pass to remain open for most of the time during the winter months.

We passed by the town of Hope at the bottom of the Choquihalla Pass and then arrived in the city of Abbotsford around 4.30pm.

We had researched some hotels in Abbotsford and decided to check out the Ramada when we arrived.  The hotel was located just off the highway and they gave us a good travel industry rate so we decided to stay for the night.  The room we were given was decorated very nicely and it was nice and quiet too.

Given that we had arrived “early” we took some time to rest before taking a shower and getting ready for supper.  There was a great restaurant attached to the hotel so we dined there for supper.  We both had a curry and washed it down with some nice red wine.

Over dinner we decided that we were going to spend the next two days in Seattle.  We had planned to travel to Seattle during our trip to the US in June but we cancelled this part of our trip and decided to focus on Yosemite and Lake Tahoe.

Seattle is only 2.5 hours driving time from Abbotsford so we decided to re-enter the US and take in some of Washington State for a couple of days.  Of course this will be totally dependent on the status of my US Departure Card issue.  I guess we will find out tomorrow!

And so, it is time for bed.  Tomorrow will come soon enough but in the meantime we need to make the most of the King Size comfort on offer here in Abbotsford.

Until tomorrow – it is goodnight from him and goodnight from her.

Roey and The Princess

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Goodbye Calgary – Hello Rockies. Tapping the oil reserves. Lunch in a Field. Smokey vistas. Sicamous in the Shuswap.

Friday, July 24th, 2009
Today marked the end of The Princess’ summer vacation in Calgary – an almost 8 week stint back in her “hometown”.

With a 5 hour drive ahead of us we woke at a reasonable hour this morning.  We ate a light breakfast, finalised our packing and checked out around 11.00am then drove around to Jill’s to say goodbye.  Jill has been so good to us over the past year and we were a little sad to say goodbye – particularly for The Princess because she has enjoyed being home with Mom for summer.

However, as one book closes another one is opened and so, after a short visit, we hopped into the gas guzzling Sport Trac and drove to the nearest petrol station – about 1 mile away!  This was the first time we had put gas in the tank and I must say that I was quite surprised – it only cost $30CAN.  Not bad considering the amount of city driving we had done.

It was around noon by the time we “hit the road” so the traffic was reasonable during our drive through Calgary and out to HWY 1 – The Trans Canada Highway.

The truck sat on the road like a family sedan and with the cruise control set, my Princess sitting beside me and the beautiful Rocky Mountains filling the windscreen, I had a smile from ear to ear!  Ahhhhhh…., the modern cowboy.

The first town of any size to the West of Calgary is called Canmore and it was here that we stopped for a caffeine fix.  I had been “off the coffee” for about six weeks however, I decided that today was the day to re-introduce myself to it.  I must say that it was nice to treat my taste buds to a hot cup of the freshly brewed liquid – no turning back now.

We decided to hold off on lunch until we were a little further into the drive so we got back on the road and drove deeper into the Rockies as we headed West toward the province of British Columbia.  We passed the resort towns of Banff and Lake Louise before approaching the tiny town of Field.

The trip was going well until the traffic banked up and eventually stopped – summer roadworks.  In Canada, the only time for doing major roadworks is in the summer months (and there are not too many of those!) and the road teams were out in force!  Just prior to arriving in Field the road teams were intentionally creating a rockslide and the road was blocked for around 30 minutes (at least that is the time that we were affected and it had been going a while before we arrived).  Landslides, avalanches and other road blocking events are commonplace here in winter so it is important to make sure the roads are fixed in the summer months.

As it turned out we stopped right near a beautiful waterfall and close to where the famous Canadian Rail spiral tunnels are located.  It is in this area that you can see the front of trains on one level and the back of the same train on another level.  We didn’t get to see this but you can have a look at this video to get an idea.

Field was only a short drive from the area we stopped and our stomachs and bladders were happy to acquaint themselves with this lovely little town.

Whilst the majority of travelers would drive right past this “blink and you will miss it” town, the turn off the highway was worth it.  The town is nestled at the base of a huge mountain and situated alongside a beautiful river.  The townsfolk are obviously proud gardeners because the gardens were stunning.

After parking the car we dined at the only cafe that was open for lunch – The Siding.  We enjoyed a lovely bowl of soup and a sandwich and made the most of being inside – the afternoon sun was a little too warm for dining.

After lunch we walked around the town and took photo’s of the flowers and the mountain vistas before returning to the truck and continuing our journey westward.

Field is around halfway to Sicamous (the town we are stopping in tonight) and it was around 3.30pm when we left there.  However, we gained an hour after crossing into British Columbia so we were not to concerned about getting to Sicamous with “light to spare”.  Indeed, at this time of the year the sun doesn’t set until after 9.30pm.

The post-lunch drive was wonderful.  I had not been this far West on Hwy 1 so the scenery was new to me.  There was quite a lot of roadworks along the way but we didn’t have to make anymore lengthy stops.

We passed the towns of Golden and Revelstoke on our way and eventually arrived in Sicamous around 6.30pm.  A pleasant 5 hour drive through the Eastern Rocky Mountains.

Our dear friend Gary had booked us into the Best Western in Sicamous.  He used some of his accumulated points and shouted us a free night – what a guy!  We were able to get a ground floor unit – a big bonus given the Princess’ desire to collect all things heavy.  Her suitcase weighs a ton!

After settling in to the room we freshened up and went in search of the restaurant that the reception staff recommended – Moose Mulligans.

I am not sure if the restaurant is named after the creatures that inhabit these parts of the town itself (pronounced sick-a-moose) but it is a funny name for a restaurant.

We were able to dine outside overlooking an inlet.  Sicamous is known as the “Houseboat Capital of Canada” because it is located on the beautiful and vast inland waterway known as the Shuswaps (pronounced “shoe-swaps”). Check out the following website for information on this amazing area.

We watched the sunset over the inlet while we dined – a beautiful sight given the nearby bushfires.  Not a pretty sight for those evacuated by the fires but a pleasant experience for us.

We returned to the hotel (not much happens in Sicamous after 10.30pm!) after supper and managed to get to bed at a reasonable hour (albeit that we had gained an hour).

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Lazy start. Healthy Nan. Goodbye happy girl. East side Italian.

Thursday, July 23rd, 2009

We woke to another beautiful Canadian summer day this morning.  The weather since I arrived back in Calgary has been sensational – warm and no humidity!  It will be difficult to go back to Hong Kong.

After breakfast we took some time to enjoy a slower paced day so we didn’t hurry out of the room.  Our only plan for today was a visit to Nan at the nursing home and supper with Jill later in the day.

Sometimes when we leave or return to the hotel for the day we are greeted by the happy and always smiling Marsha.  Marsha is a lovely soul and an asset to Delta.  She always takes the time to speak with us and often gets out from behind the desk to come to speak greet us.  A very special lady.

When we did head out of the hotel we drove to the nearby Starbucks and enjoyed a “brew” whilst sitting outside on a warm Calgary day.  It was nice to do some people watching a let time pass slowly before taking a short drive to Southcentre Mall.  We bought a few “only available in North America” items and ate a nice light lunch in one of the deli’s in the centre.

We arrived at Father Lacombe nursing home around 2.00pm and had a lovely visit with Nan.  She must have been taking some super vitamins or sleeping well because she looked great.  Nan is 94 this year and we both agreed that we hope we can look like here at this age!

Our visit included a lot of laughs and story telling and we left Nan feeling very happy.  We look forward to paying her a lot more visits in the years to come.

From the nursing home we drove back to the the area near the hotel and dropped into Wal Mart – the great American institute that is spreading globally faster than swine flu.

We decided to purchase a large cooler bag to transport our perishable items during the road trip (we are leaving Calgary tomorrow).  We will be spending quite a long time in the car over the coming days and the summer temperatures will take their toll on the “fridge items” that we have accumulated over the past week.

We found a very bright (hippie design – go flower power) cooler – the only one on the shelf actually so we didn’t actually have any choice.  We won’t loose it that’s for sure.

The Delta hotel is literally across the street from the Wal Mart store so we returned there to drop of some things before picking up Jill and going out for supper.

By chance our friend from Hong Kong (now residing in Calgary), Danielle, dropped in on her way home from work.  The timing was perfect and it was nice to spend some time with Danielle before we left Calgary.  She is a fun lady – always smiling and laughing and anytime you see her your left feeling happy too.

We left the room shortly after Danielle departed and drove around to Jill’s house (about 5 minutes away).  I gave Jill a hand to move some furniture before we hopped into our “Cowtown Taxi” and drove to East Side Mario’s – an Italian themed restaurant in the southern suburbs of Calgary.

The extended family joined us for supper tonight because it was our last night in Calgary and it will be some time before we see them all again.

The 8 adults and 5 children kept the waiter rather busy and he did a great job of keeping track of orders, seating changes and the excited banter that took place.  The meals and drink went down well and we all enjoyed dining outside and soaking up the warmth (a real treat for Calgarians!).

After boxing up the leftovers we made our way to the restaurant’s exit and said our lengthy goodbyes before driving back to Jill’s house and dropping her off.

We got back to the hotel at a reasonable hour so we were able to get to bed a little earlier than the last night.  My body clock is settling down but it is still nice to get a respectable number of hours in bed.

Hope you are all getting your own beauty sleep!

Roey and The Princess

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Celebrating man’s trip to the moon with rocket building

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2009

Well, as I mentioned in yesterday’s blog, I decided to get up early and return to the US Consulate downtown.

Fortunately, I slept “like a log” last night so I was quite fresh when I woke up at 6.00am and took an early morning shower before eating breakfast.

I left the room around 7.00am and drove to the closest C Train station – Heritage.  The C Train is a part of Calgary’s public transit system.  It is an above ground light rail system that is very efficient (particularly at peak hours) and quite cheap.  The trains are clean and comfortable albeit rather crowded at 7.00am.

There is a station outside the building where the US Consulate is located and I arrived with plenty of time to spare before the 8.00am opening.  I gave my body some caffeine (in the form of a cup of tea) before joining the other early risers in the queue.

I was fourth in line to be scanned and questioned so it didn’t take too long before I was being asked why I was visiting the US Consulate.  I told the guard my story and was asked to show him my passport.  He said: “No problem, leave it with me” as he rather rudely ripped (leaving me with less than a full page) the departure card from my passport and called: “Next!”

I was a little taken aback by his action but I walked away and hoped that the departure card would make its way to a consular official.  I guess I will find out when I return to the US!

Having achieved my purpose I headed for the nearest station (across the street) and returned to my Princess in the reverse order of that which I just taken.

My Princess was only just finished getting ready for the day by the time I returned to the room and she was surprised to see me back so quickly.  After outlining the morning’s events I lay on the bed and rested for an hour  before freshening up and driving my Princess to the bank.

We needed to pay the lady that manages our condo’ (Barbara) some monies for work that she had arranged to be completed so we had to get a bank cheque.  This didn’t take too long (the bank is close to where we are staying) so we had Starbuck’s “fix” (tea only for me) before returning to the hotel and waiting for Barbara to arrive.

After our meeting we left the hotel and headed out to Langdon to visit The Princess’ sister, Diane and Diane’s children, Aidan and Ciara.

The drive out to the town takes around 25 minutes – a pleasant drive to the East of Calgary.  After leaving the Calgary city limits the vista changes to a flat rural landscape – rather beautiful at this time of the year.

Diane owns a bookshop in the town and the children and Diane were at the shop so we joined them there for about an hour.

We bought the children an afternoon treat and kept them entertained while Diane served some customers.  Diane closed up the shop then we all “hopped” into our “not so enviro friendly” hire truck and took a drive out of town to look at some land that Diane is interested in buying.

The land is around 10 minutes from Langdon and it is surrounded by farm land.  It is a beautiful place with wonderful views of the Rocky Mountains to the West.

After returning to Langdon we drove to Diane’s house and I spent the afternoon building a rather sophisticated rocket the Aidan was given as a present.  Today is the anniversary of man’s adventure to the moon so it seemed appropriate that I spent the afternoon building a rocket!

Unfortunately the glued components of the rocket required some drying time and this meant that Aidan and I could not launch the completed space vehicle.  However, a friend of Diane’s, Mark (a seasoned rocketeer) will be able to help Aidan in the coming week.  Of course I absolve myself of any responsibility if the rocket doesn’t get airborne!!

Shortly after the afternoon’s engineering feats were completed we sat down to a very tasty meal and spent time catching up on news from the past few weeks.

The Princess and I departed Diane’s around 9.00pm and headed back to Calgary.  The setting sun was spectacular – aided by smoke from the bushfires that are raging in British Columbia.  These fires will affect our trip plans – more to follow on that tomorrow.

We hope this finds you healthy, happy and living life to its fullest.

Roey and The Princess

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Time zone mind confusion. Departing the US from Canada. Red Rock supper

Tuesday, July 21st, 2009

Even though I was still rather tired, I think the long sleep in yesterday must have taken its toll on my body clock because I didn’t sleep well last night.

The Princess had a good night’s rest but I seemed to toss and turn throughout the night – a sure sign of my body clock being in Hong Kong and my body in Calgary.  Needless to say I didn’t bounce out of bed.

We dined in the room for breakfast.  The Princess had accumulated a range of supplies over the previous six weeks so we made the most of the variety of food (cereal, fruit, yoghurt and milk) and ate “in”.

Perhaps one of the reasons for my lack of sleep can be attributed to my mind thinking about whether I “checked out” of the USA when I departed from San Francisco.  My early morning (2.00am I think) thoughts were confirmed when I looked in my passport and realised that the US Departure Card was still stapled onto one of the blank pages.  So what is the problem?  Well, if one doesn’t have a record of one’s departure from the USA then one may have a big problem getting back into the place in the future (indeed it says as much on the card).

Now, whilst I was able to stay in the US for 3 months I still needed to “leave” according to the official records.  With this in mind The Princess and I decided that we would call the US Consulate in Calgary and find out what I needed to do.  Problem 1 – you cannot speak to anyone there – synthetic voice only.  So, we decided to get ourselves prepared for the day and pay a visit to the US Consulate.  Problem 2 – finding the place (regardless of having the address) is like finding a needle in a haystack.  The US Consulate in Calgary does not want to be bothered with visitors!

However, we persisted and eventually arrived at the nondescript building downtown only to be told that the consulate is only open from 0800-1130 (it was around 1.30pm).  I guess they are not too busy in Calgary.  I decided that I would return first thing tomorrow morning.

We headed back toward the area we are staying in and had a bite to eat before returning to the hotel and getting ready to go out for supper.

We had a 6.00pm dinner appointment with Shae-Lyn and Darcy at the Redwater Grille.  Shae-Lyn’s sister (Tera) and her partner (Rick) also joined us for supper – a wonderful meal washed down with some Canadian red wine.

I had purchased a remote control off-road buggy for Darcy and carried it to Calgary with me.  Darcy was like a kid in a candy shop when I gave him his new toy (before supper) – I am sure he will “find his six-year old” when he takes it out for a run!

We finished up supper around 10.30pm and returned to the hotel tired, well fed and ready for a sleep!

Until tomorrow’s blog, take care, sleep tight (if you are ready for bed) and smile!

Roey and The Princess

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Typhoon and heat. Standby to SFO. 3 hour delay. Would you like to sit in First Class?

Sunday, July 19th, 2009

I am sitting in San Francisco airport waiting for my United Airlines flight to Calgary.   I have been “on the go” for the past 30 hours and I am looking forward to arriving in Calgary at midnight tonight.  Fortunately I was able to sleep well on the flight from HK to the US.

Yesterday morning started at 4.15am because I had an early morning training session in the simulator.  The training went well and I was able to get home around 1.00pm and take a shower before doing the final packing and catching the bus to the airport.

A typhoon had been “brewing” in the seas to the East of Hong Kong and the pre-typhoon heat was oppressive.  I am glad that I took a shower and some time to get organised before I returned to the airport.

I was listed on flights to Vancouver and San Francisco and when I arrived at the staff check-in they informed me that the flight to SFO had more seats available – I took the option of SFO.  The flight was still “open” so I had to wait for a short while before returning to the check-in.  It was nice to get confirmed in a Business Class seat when I returned.

The flight was due to depart at 4.35pm so I made my way to the gate and arrived with a little time to spare.  However, due to maintenance problems with the aircraft we boarded around 5.00pm.  It was nice to get onboard and settle into my seat however, the maintenance problems and weather added up to departing three hours late.  Thankfully I was able to recline the seat into a lie flat bed and get nearly two hours sleep at the gate!

After getting underway I enjoyed a very nice supper and watched a movie (Duplicity – Julia Roberts) before being asked if I would mind moving to First Class.  Apparently one of passengers in Business Class had a faulty TV in his seat and they wanted to give him my seat.  For the privilege of giving up my seat they upgraded me to First Class.  Now that is the way to fly!!  No complaints for the late arrival into SFO and missing my earlier connections to Calgary.  The comfortable seat (bed), warm blankets, Shanghai Tang sleepwear and the space was worth it.

I am about to head to the gate for the flight to Calgary so I will log off, pick up some water and get back to reality by checking into an economy seat for the flight to my Princess.

More to follow tomorrow morning when I wake up!

Well, it was not tomorrow morning when I woke up – it was tomorrow afternoon.  Indeed, this afternoon around 1.30pm!

I arrived in Calgary on US6414 from San Francisco.  I managed to “squeeze” into my little seat at the back of a CRJ700 and enjoyed the sunset flight to Calgary.  The inflight service was great (two cabin crew who did a fabulous job) and the flight arrived on time (11.30pm) in Calgary.

My Princess was waiting for me when I came into the arrivals hall – a lovely welcome kiss and cuddle and a few tears too!!  It is so nice to be back with my Princess.

After hiring a car we returned to Jill’s house (Princess’ Mom) then drove to the Delta Hotel and checked in.  We arrived in our room around 1.30am – a long, long day.  Needless to say we were both exhausted and “collapsed” into bed after getting our things organised.  I didn’t stir all night and, as mentioned above, we finally “surfaced” around 1.30pm.  Just perfect.

We had a light “brunch” before getting ready for supper.  We drove around to Jill’s house, picked her up then drove to Earls for a lovely outdoor dining experience.

We enjoyed the wonderful evening sun, some lovely Australian red wine and great service.  A nice way to get back into the Canadian way of life for a few days.

After a short stop off at the local grocery store we dropped Jill off at home then returned to the Delta for an “early” night – earlier than last night!

We hope this finds you all well, happy, healthy and living in the moment.

Roey and The Princess

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