Archive for July 2016

Flight of the Midnight Sun

July 29, 2016 - 10:58 pm 1 Comment

First flight of the day was a 13-minute hop from Nanaimo to Vancouver. One of the things I miss most when I’m out of the country is a good cheeseburger, so I have a tradition of eating the biggest, juiciest, tastiest burger before heading overseas. That plan was thwarted by the lack of selection in Vancouver Airport’s Terminal D. I settled for a greasy mess of a burger and an even greasier mess of poutine from Canadian fast food chain A&W.

My second flight was delayed because of a problem with the PA system, despite the fact that they used the PA system to keep us updated on the problem. We left about an hour late.

Out the window to my left, I saw the majestic and snowy Canadian Rockies.

Canadian Rockies from the Air (more…)

Family Time in Parksville

July 28, 2016 - 4:17 pm 1 Comment

Got dropped at the gas station in Parksville and was met with hugs from my mom and sister. After a week of solo travel, it was great be with family again.

Parksville is a small town nestled between mountains and rocky beaches. It’s filled with deer, black bunnies, and old people. We’d spend the days seeing the local sights: an international sand castle competition, Little Mountain, Horne Lake, Qualicum Falls, and Rathtrevor Beach, which is the most massive beach I have ever seen when the tide is out. It’s a half-mile walk to the water’s edge.

Parksville Sand Sculpting Competition & Exhibition (more…)

Butchart Gardens & Victoria

July 22, 2016 - 5:30 pm 1 Comment

So it’s actually a bit of a hassle getting from Vancouver to Victoria. You’d think there would be convenient departures from Vancouver, but it takes almost two hours of trains and buses just to get to the ferry terminal south of the city. Then another hour and a half on the ferry itself.

The boat is enormous, pretty much the size of a cruise ship, only a bit more industrial-looking. The ride is slow and smooth and rumbles with a vibration that feels kind of nice if you’re sitting in the right part of the boat.

Sunrise on the Strait of Georgia (more…)

Vancouver on Foot

July 22, 2016 - 2:20 am No Comments

After zipping by the Canadian border that all the suckers in cars had to stop at, my train finally ended its journey at Vancouver’s Pacific Central Station. There’s no Uber in Vancouver, and oddly, there were no taxis waiting at the train station, so I began the long, hilly walk through the city with suitcase in tow to my hostel.

I immediately set out to explore the city. First, Granville Island Public Market, a 45-second ferry ride from downtown Vancouver. My favorite merchant was the Broom Company shop, where the Schweiger sisters make fancy, creative-looking brooms. As she used a machine to wind a new broom, one of the sisters told me that broom corn is the name of the plant harvested for its bristles. I also learned that broom bristles were traditionally “round” and unfinished, but it was in the 1850’s that it became fashionable to neatly trim them to make a flat edge.

Making a Broom (more…)

Seattle is Cool!

July 20, 2016 - 11:33 am 2 Comments

After checking into my Seattle hostel, I set out to explore the city. Compared to Portland, this is a proper city. And with the beautiful weather, friendly people, scenic skyline, I got a great vibe from Seattle from the very beginning.

I walked around a bunch, hitting the famous Pike Place Market a few times. It’s a crowded collection of outdoor stalls and indoor shops filled with art, photography, fish, produce, flowers, and lots of other great stuff. Kind if a neat place, if not a little claustrophobic with all of the tourists cramming through there.

Pike Place Market (more…)

The Train from Portland to Seattle

July 17, 2016 - 1:48 pm No Comments

Woke up early this morning and made one more attempt to hit Voodoo Doughnut, but again found the line around the block. At 7am. Crazy.

Keep Portland Weird (more…)

A Gorge, a Mountain, and Some Roses

July 17, 2016 - 1:11 am No Comments

So at night, all of the shuttered storefronts transform into bars with live music and booming nightclubs. Portland’s social youth get dressed up and pour onto the streets. And the ruckus doesn’t scare away the homeless people. They hang out and watch or go to sleep right there on the sidewalk in front of the club.

At 1am, I visited Voodoo Doughnut and found the line around the block. Are the doughnuts really that good?

Voodoo Doughnut (more…)

A Zombie in Portland

July 15, 2016 - 11:09 pm 1 Comment

That last night before leaving, I didn’t go to sleep. It was a mad crush of house chores, laundry, and packing. Somehow, perhaps irresponsibly, I managed to condense two month’s worth of essentials into a single suitcase. We shall see how that works out for me.

My flight to Portland was with Southwest, an airline I’ve had some problems with recently but compensated me with some travel vouchers. But the vouchers didn’t make me feel any better about the airline’s “no assigned seating” policy, which I find very frustrating. Just like the last time I flew Southwest, I found myself pacing up and down the aisle looking for a window or aisle seat, with each person looking at me awkwardly as they wondered if I would sit down next to them. When you choose not to sit next to them, do they take it personally? Or are they relieved? Or some weird combination of both? Alas, the best option was an aisle seat next to an athletic-looking guy with a massive, V-shaped upper body that surged over the armrest and invaded my space. He looked comfortable, but for me, acute scoliosis set in at 15,000 feet. That, and the emergency row seats don’t lean back. That, and my inflatable airline pillow became soggy and pathetic after about five minutes. (more…)

Why Not Do Them All?

July 13, 2016 - 11:02 pm No Comments

Over the last year, pictures in my Facebook feed of friends doing exciting things in exotic places started to get annoying. I would see them, most often on my computer at work, and reminisce about how I used to take those kinds of trips pretty regularly. But for the last three years, I’ve found myself at a job that offered the sad American standard of two weeks of paid time off a year. I’d been with the company long enough to earn the three weeks of PTO a year, but it still was not enough. After marriages and deaths and doctor appointments and a flood in your garage take chunks out of your vacation time, you’re left with a precious few days each year to actually enjoy yourself.

Suddenly, travel opportunities started presenting themselves. My mom told me she’d be visiting my sister in western Canada in July and asked if I’d like to meet her there. My friend Jerry made plans to go to Norway in September to visit his wife’s family and asked if I’d like to tag along. There’s a Croatia/Greece organized tour that I wanted to do that is only available to my age bracket through the end of this year. My friend Conrad, while discussing some of the tour options for Greece, said he’d always wanted to do some sort of sailing trip. Conrad has also always wanted to do Oktoberfest in Germany. I don’t enjoy beer, but I enjoy fests. The wheels started turning. (more…)