Vancouver and Home

July 15th, 2017 , 10:06

So up earlish again, though we should have only had a two hour drive to Vancouver. But you never know, and sure enough we stopped on Hwy 1. Everyone just parked and were saying there was a four car pileup ahead. We managed to work out another route coming off the exit we were stopped at, so I squiggled off the highway, onto the ramp, and we went the back route. Slightly slower, but a nicer drive through farmland. Traffic picked up closer to Vancouver but wasn’t too bad and we actually dropped the car off on time despite the delays and detour!

Shuttle to the airport where we had a lunch/brunch as we were too early to drop off our bags! Finally got the bags dropped off and through security. The flight wasn’t bad and landed nearly an hour early. Now to recover from jet lag . . .

Did find out through a search that there were two accidents on Hwy 1 and the road was closed until 7pm! So good squiggle off.

Frog Blog

Nearly Done!

July 13th, 2017 , 19:56

Up early, 6am MT so 5am Pacific which is where we were headed, and left at 7am. Had done all the check out stuff the night before so ready to go. We were hoping to avoid the construction, but they had started early at the blasting area and we stopped for about 10 or 15 minutes – so not bad. The rest of the construction area we just drove through!

We did some stopping along the way. First stop was Rockgarden which was lovely. As it was early we chatted to each other so didn’t see much wildlife (there were warning signs about bears everywhere and we were the only people there) but did see woodpeckers, probably the three-toed woodpecker, and some sort of small rodent, probably a pika. Haven’t had a chance to look them up! It is a beautiful walk, with some scrambling over rocks. Descriptions online said easy walk, the display board at the site said ‘difficult wear appropriate mountain hiking boots’, and the truth is somewhere in between. I did well in trainers and Joe in his hiking sandals, but there were stretches of scrambling!

After pulling out of Rockgarden, a truck going the other way flashed his lights at us. So I was slowing down and trying to find out why – was looking at my lights, checking the car, looking around. I was just about to start speeding up again when I saw why he’d flashed – the bear digging around at the side of the road! Black bear, just looking for breakfast. As it was so close to the edge of the road I didn’t stop, but slowed way down so Joe could get some hasty photos – and I’ve finally seen a wild bear!

We then went to the Giant Cedars boardwalk and walked along under the giant rainforest trees. Really lovely. We did run into a couple of other people on the boardwalk, but it was still quiet. Didn’t see anything under the trees, no bears or voles (there were signs about voles) and could hear birds, but didn’t see any. Joe got lots of good photos of the light, the trees, and the boardwalk!

We then got to the Skunk Cabbage boardwalk and Joe said he wanted to see what a skunk cabbage is, so I did a quick turn into the area. I thought it was just a short boardwalk out to some cabbages, so left my binoculars in the car. We stopped by the info board as there was a laminated sheet attached to it and a warning sign below – warning of a bear in the area. This was new; the other signs just had ‘bear country here’s how to behave’ but this was a sheet saying a bear was definitely in the area. At the start of the walk there was a white board with ‘post your recent sightings!’ and the last one was at 20:30 the night before – “still eating”. Hmmmm. And again we were the only people there. So we went in talking and singing.

Turns out the skunk cabbage boardwalk is a long walk – we took a bit over half an hour going relatively quickly. Well quicker than we’d normally go on such a walk. Because bear. We got to the boardwalk and started along only to come across a rather recent pile of scat and crushed vegetation either side of the boardwalk. But Joe said he wanted to see skunk cabbage (and also said ‘so this is proof that bear’s do not shit in the woods!) so we had a very loud discussion about bears and how they should just trundle right along because humans were there and carried on. And the boardwalk is brilliant – lots of skunk cabbage which is July isn’t particularly impressive, but also loads of birds (they do tagging here and have tagged around 50 different species) and other plants and creatures. The bear was obviously stocking up on all the berries in the marsh, loads of berries there. And of course I didn’t have my binoculars to see any of the birds flying around! We also startled something swimming in the water which dove with a flick of tail – too small to be a beaver, not a bird, so maybe a rodent? Perhaps a small otter? If they’re in that area. But not enough of a look to tell! There was one bird actually slightly under the boardwalk (and guess what we started singing) which we startled and it got caught by the grass/weeds trying to fly away so was making a racket flapping and crashing about. We may have jumped and squeaked when it did. But the skunk cabbage walk comes highly recommended! Even though we never saw the bear.

Then we just got in the car and headed toward Vancouver! We had decided to drive as far as we could, then stop for the night. We stopped at Joe Schmucks Roadhouse in Sicamous for brunch. Really good food and fun signs – “I dream of the day a chicken can cross the road without its motives being questioned.” Also seen along the road was an Authentic Canadian Cantonese restaurant. We’re unsure exactly what they were serving, maybe maple syrup in all the sauces? We stopped in Chilliwack for the night and had dinner at a steakhouse, which was very good. Joe finished the meal with a 12 year old Canadian whisky which he learned was a rye. Said he enjoyed it. Saw a sign as we were leaving the steakhouse – “Instant human: just add coffee” – which we had to agree with. Tomorrow we fly home.

Frog Blog

Snow Hiking

July 12th, 2017 , 19:52

Had a huge breakfast at the lodge then headed off for Mount Revelstoke and the Meadows in the Sky parkway. We got caught just out of the lodge by roadworks and had to sit for about half hour while charges were detonated. Not sure if they’re widening the road or simply clearing off some of the rock face to avoid rock falls and avalanches. There were signs about avalanche clearing, but that seemed to be higher on the mountains.

We found the turn off for the Meadows in the Sky Parkway (looks like you can only get on it when going south) and were stopped by our first park ticket barrier. We had our parks pass (ordered back in December as they were doing a ‘get a free park pass to celebrate 150 years of Canada’) and this was the first time we actually got to use it! I’d had it on the rear-view mirror in case, as you’re supposed to have one if you park. We wound our way to the top, stopping at some of the pull offs (there were a couple closed). When we reached the parking area at the top, it was rather crowded but we found a place to park and then walked up the shuttle road to the summit. Nice walk, though there was snow! We had been warned before we headed up that there weren’t many flowers out, just the glacier lily, but there were other flowers starting to bloom. It was all lovely, but apparently the best time to see the flowers is in August.

At the top we went along the First Footsteps walk which was lovely. However, we were wearing our hiking sandals. And parts of the trail were still covered in snow. Cold snow. So was walking along and then had to slide our way over the snow. Did I mention we were in sandals? Cause yeah, that. After that we headed over to towards the fire tower and stopped for the views. Didn’t go all the way up to the fire tower as there was snow. We then headed back down to the car along the path rather than the road. Only to find more snow. But it was a very pretty walk.

We then headed into Revelstoke to get petrol – there is nothing between Golden and Revelstoke – about 150km and we were staying a little over halfway between, the lodge is closer to Golden. This is also why we were eating at the lodge – it was that or about an hour’s drive either way, perhaps more due to construction. So we gave ourselves the same amount of time it took to get to Revelstoke to get back to the lodge. Only we didn’t get caught in any of the construction and got in a bit quicker.

Another lovely dinner – no starter so I’d have room for pudding! Then waited for bunnies. Joe checked out the door and said bunny! So I went to have a look and there it was, munching the clover outside our room. Joe got several photos.

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Driving Day

July 11th, 2017 , 20:25

So the weather last night made the newspapers! All about the delay to Stampede. Which was interesting. And my weather app this morning showed the lighting.

We thought we’d be late to leave as we were out so late the night before, but got up and out earlier than expected. We had looked at a different route out of Calgary, but got news that with the rain and road works that way had delays, so we headed out the way we’d come in – only in rain. It rained all the way out of Calgary and was cloudy and dark for most of the drive. We put on a radio station and carried on – it was Jack 96.9 and fun (“Calgary is better than Toronto. We should have a joke here, but it’s just scientific fact.”)

We stopped in Canmore for petrol and food. The food was really good, but the service wasn’t. We kept thinking they’d forgotten us – people who came in after us got menus and orders before us. Our friend had given us one of new $10 bills that Canada released for the 150th – nifty bill! So later when I was reading about the new bill, Joe said ‘like this?’ and I said ‘no, the new ones’ and he said ‘yeah, like this’. He’d gotten one as change at the petrol station!

We were taking our time and turning off at about every brown sign just to see stuff. We took Tunnel Road into Banff (there isn’t a tunnel) and went right through the town (crowded). We pulled into the Spiral Tunnel viewpoint just in time to see a train go through.

After Banff we got off Hwy 1 and took Hwy 1A, the Bow Valley Parkway. A scenic twisting road which was really nice, but we didn’t see much wildlife other than ground squirrels. Saw lots of people who ignored the whole ‘don’t stop, do NOT get out of your car, leave the wildlife alone’ info that was posted every where. We’d pass loads of cars pulled half onto the shoulder or just stopped in the road with everyone out and taking photos or looking through binoculars. Even cyclists pulling their bikes as close to the edge as they could go. Just about all the trails off the road were closed to protect the wildlife, so there were obviously a lot of young around.

We saw ground squirrels when we stopped in Cranmore, hanging out in the verges at the parking lot. Then they were all over the 1A – every stop there were ground squirrels. Including one stop at a picnic area where there were loads. So Joe got his camera and sat at a picnic table near a burrow to get photos. While he sat there, all the squirrels came out behind him and were all over the area between the car and Joe, running about while Joe watched the burrow. A couple took pity on Joe and came out so he’d get his photos.

We took our time on the drive and got to Heather Mountain Lodge about an hour before dinner. Unpacked and rested then had dinner at the lodge. It was really good; we started with the mixed platter which was a bit of everything and that pretty much filled me up! But had a main as well. And they had fleece blankets for people sitting on the deck! My sort of place.

Joe went out to get photos of the sunset and saw a bunny! But by the time he got back to the room the bunny had scarpered.

Frog Blog

Dog Day Afternoon

July 10th, 2017 , 18:36

Had a bit of a lie in, got up and packed for the next day (as we were planning an earlish start) and pulled together stuff for the day. Went to pick up our friend, whose mother had contacted Stampede Customer Services to ask where Joe could find his Reuben Dog! So to get to transport into Calgary we had to drive to the station! CTrain – and all the messages were about Stampede, funny that. The best one was ‘Don’t let your little cow pokes wander! Hold their hand!’ Had to change trains and they announced to change a station earlier than we thought, so we followed directions. Turned out the driver was correct as the next station was packed!

Off into the Stampede grounds and straight to Wiggle Chips (no really!) for Joe’s Reuben Dog – he said it was ok, but didn’t notice anything special. Then again, he’s never had a corn dog before! I took a bite and the sausage in it was definitely more like pastrami.  But yeah, deep fried batter wrapped around a pastrami flavoured hot dog, with cheese but no sauerkraut. I had perogies which were really nice. We did not have the Bear Balls, not even the maple syrup ones (I think they were doughnuts). Joe still says the best buy was the 2 dollar elk stick – a dried sausage of elk, a large dried sausage of elk.

Once we’d had lunch we headed for the arts and crafts area which was a weird mixture of stalls selling things and really lovely art work. Sort of Ideal Home Show meets C&W art show, along with a children’s area with a reptile show (I got to see a giant frog)!  There were also a lot of crafts on display from cake decorating to quilting to wood working. Joe took lots of photos!

We then headed for the Tipi Village where we ended up spending most of the afternoon! The one hour dance demonstration lasted much longer, but we really didn’t mind as we were enjoying watching it all. The introduction was how the Tipi Village came to be at Stampede and part of this was ‘playing Indian’. There were many types of dances and everyone, from tiny child to adult were dancing. They would do large ‘inter-tribal’ dances where everyone joined in each doing their own dance, then split out into different ages and/or dance. When they did the tiny little children the MC introduced his grandson who was 1, then pointed out a little girl and said he thought she was 1 at which she nodded emphatically. She wanted to get on with the dance – she was dancing all the time and really well! As the dancing was ending the rain started, so we ducked into their art area out of the rain.

We then went hunting the dog bowl – kept asking for directions and getting different replies! But finally found it just as a show was starting so we grabbed seats and watched. Really enjoyed it – from agility races, to dancing and skipping rope, to long jumps into water.

Then dinner. Joe had eyed a place doing steak and prime rib sandwiches so he headed there, our friend wanted perogies. I didn’t know what I wanted so I wandered around; I saw Joe’s sandwich which looked good, but I wanted the steak rather than prime rib. Now his sandwich was pretty much pulled prime rib on a bun – large but manageable. So I order my steak sandwich and get sent round to the grill where he asked me how I wanted my steak, then pulled out this huge steak and bunged it on the grill. Ok, he’s sure to cut it up right? Nope, someone else’s sandwich was done before mine and I watched in growing horror as he opened the bun, dropped this huge steak onto it, put a huge stack of cooked onion and another huge stack of mushrooms on top of that,  then pushed the container sort of closed (it wouldn’t go all the way) and handed it over. I got to where friend and Joe had found a place to sit holding this huge thing and friend took one look and said ‘half a cow sandwich’ which stuck.

So we head for the stadium and the chuck wagon races and evening show with me holding this huge sandwich (mind you, it was just the steak and toppings that were huge – they were plonked on a normal hamburger sized bun!) Get in and I head for the seats to try to eat this thing before everything starts (and I have to stand for the national anthem!) Managed it, just, and it was very good.

The evening theme was Home Grown Heroes with people from the military, rescue services, police, etc. And during the anthem a helicopter flew over with a large Canadian flag underneath. Then chuck wagon races! Which were fun to watch. We were randomly picking wagons to cheer on and having fun; between races they’d bring out a local heroes and interview them which was interesting. The first two were firefighters who did their interview, then went to audience dancing – only the audience thought they should dance, so they waltzed together. That was probably the most memorable interview!

Then came the end of race 6 and the rain. The sky had been getting darker and darker, our friend headed in to get a rain poncho, and the skies opened so Joe and I followed. Along with everyone else. Thunder, lighting (really nifty lighting) and torrential downpour, I think there was even hail. So everyone just stood in the lobby and waited it out – though I think a few left. The rest of the races were cancelled (there were supposed to be 9) and the evening show was delayed for about an hour and a half! But they did the show – we all headed back out to persistent rain, but not bucketing it down, and waited out the delay as they tried to sort out the stage. The show was good, but they cut about three things out due to the delays and we only sort of saw the fireworks as we headed out at the end. There was one act where they played fountains on the stage – because there simply wasn’t already enough water there I said. Then the MC came on and said the same thing, it was the obvious joke to make!

Back to the hotel quite late – which is why we packed in the morning!

Frog Blog

Wildlife

July 10th, 2017 , 5:53

Well Canadian wildlife is hiding from me! 

Last night we watched the Stampede fireworks from our hotel room. Our friend mentioned that we should be able to see them, so we stood at the window and watched and sure enough – a really good view. They are a ways off, but clear enough. We’ll probably watch again tonight and, of course, tomorrow night we’ll be there to see them!

So we were up late last night with the fireworks and decided to have a slow start to the day. Things conspired against that – noise in the hotel (we’re not sure who was collecting the room service trays early this morning, but we suspect a Greek plate smashing team or similar) and at around 8am a jet flew low over the hotel. I asked Joe if he was awake and wanted to get up and he said ‘no!’ rolled over and started to snore. So. 

We did get up eventually and had breakfast and got ready to head to the local park – Weaselhead. We went hoping to see some local wildlife as there are often deer or elk there. We’ve also heard that bears hang out there. But did we see any of that? Nope. Also heard a lovely bird song but never found that bird. We did see sparrows, finches, cedar waxwings, and chickadees. So not a total washout. But still no snowshoe hares even though they are apparently very common and found in everyone’s garden. But did see the black squirrels. 

We saw and heard a thunderstorm moving in so headed back up toward the car. The thunderstorm passed us by, but we decided to head out and get something to eat – Joe was hungry. When we got in the car though we suddenly remembered we wanted to go see Big Rock. So off we headed for Okotoks and the rock. In Okotoks Joe said he was still hungry and there is a bar and grill! So we pull into this strip mall and In Cahoots Bar and Grill. We only wanted a small snack as we were going back to our friends house for dinner again, so ordered the sharing platter. When it came out it was huge! And very very good. So we had a good ‘snack’ and headed out to the rock.

The big rock is, surprisingly enough, a very big rock. But really interesting to see. The area is also nice and it was nice to do the walk. So we had fun walking around. Then back to Calgary and shower and off to dinner. We’ve had another lovely dinner and are now waiting for the fireworks again!

Frog Blog

Sorting day

July 9th, 2017 , 6:10

So were thinking of what to do when we discovered the laptop didn’t charge. So Joe did troubleshooting and figured out it was the plug. So off we went to find a new cable and nope, couldn’t find it. So our friend offered a cable and we can get charged again. But today ended up being a bit of running about and sorting things, including boring stuff like laundry! So generally a sorting and resting sort of day. But there are now photos up! I’m hoping to get some sorting done a bit later or at least get them into an album! 

We also had a wonderful dinner at our friend’s house and a wander around the neighbourhood. So a lovely sort of day.

Now the rodeo yesterday – now that I don’t have to peck at a tablet! Opening day had all the ceremony and dances and welcome. Then the rodeo. The announcers were good at telling you what you were watching and what made a good ride or a bad one and how the scoring was done. However, their entertainment bits, well, the 70s called and they want their ‘jokes’ back. 

But the events were interesting. Started with the novice saddle and bareback broncos. Then the tie down, which was really interesting – though it took me every rider to figure it all out as it was over in seconds. One calf won the event – the rider through the lasso and missed and the calf was off to the exit gate as fast as it’s little legs could move. Yay Calf! Every event is over in seconds! We then got bareback champions and steer wrestling. And one of the steers won – the guy grabbed and the steer just wiggled and ran on. Interval was the Calgary Stampede marching band which were fun. Good musicians, though I’m not sure about the dancers, gun twirlers, and flag wavers. Then we had saddle bronco followed by the only event women did – barrel racing. Not sure why women can only do that, but there you are. The final event was bull riding which was rather exciting. They then have an event where a team of three kids try to hang onto a pony, get one of the kids on it to ride. Most of the kids ended up being dragged across the arena face down. At the end the winners came up for the presentation of the bronzes. We had great seats right where we could see everything. And Joe got some great photos!

Frog Blog

Photo update

July 8th, 2017 , 17:51

So this morning should have been uploading photos and generally sorting. But the laptop won’t charge – I’m having to peck out blog posts on the tablet! So photos may be on hold until we return home! And Joe has loads of course. 

That’s also why details of the rodeo were limited. May do more if I get on the hotel computer and can actually type!

Frog Blog

Stampede

July 8th, 2017 , 3:24

Up early and only partly because of the crying baby in the next room. Meet friend in lobby at 7 and headed into Calgary for our parking. Once parked we collected a bagged breakfast and headed for the buses which were taking us to the parade seating. So Joe got to ride in a yellow school bus! Though they are much nicer than I remember them being!

We were quite early, about 45 minutes before the parade was due to start, but there were people already coming along and performing.  Sort of a pre-parade. The parade was fun, but very long. We did get to see Nenshi on a horse – the reason he ran for mayor!  Also lots of horses in the parade. Oh and British tanks! Doing doughnuts in the road. They were closely followed by a much larger Canadian tank which also had to do a doughnut even though it almost didn’t fit across the road! Also lots of tartzn and drum and pipe bands.

At the end of the parade we dashed back to the buses for the ride to the stampede grounds. The queue to get in was long but moved quickly. We had a wander around the site before heading to the grandstand and our seats for the rodeo. As its the first day we got all the welcoming stuff – including a dance by the treaty 7 tribes and a flyby. Then the rodeo which ended up being fun and interesting. 

After the rodeo we got some food and had another look around before heading out to find a shuttle back to the parking lot and the car. Drinks and relaxation in the room!

Frog Blog

Calgary

July 7th, 2017 , 4:50

So up early – the hotel had paper thin walls and our neighbours were up before 5am. We got up about an hour later, got showered, packed, and had breakfast and were on the road with a petrol fill up by 8:15. The drive was lovely – another clear sunny day. Lots of road works – it is road working season here – so a bit slow going and we didn’t manage to stop as often as we’d have liked. But no poles down over the road!

Saw more bald eagles and birds, but no mammals, despite all the warning signs of elk, moose, deer, sheep, and goats. Drove through Revelstoke and Glacier National Park, saw where we’ll be staying next week. We stopped at Golden for food and ended up at a Fire Pit barbecue joint – with excellent food! So an hour stop for a really good burger and BBQLT (applewood smoked bacon, lettuce and tomato). Joe took photos as we left as a row of motorbikes had parked out front!

Then through Banff where we got caught in traffic from an earlier accident. We didn’t stop for any views, but made note of where we’d like to stop on the way back. Then along to Calgary. The change in scenery was interesting, but by that time I was tired of driving! Calgary at rush hour as I forgot the hour time difference.

We’re staying at the Grey Eagle Resort and Casino and the hotel is really nice!

Got collected at the hotel and taken out to Wild Rose Brewery which is on the old army base. Really nice place, Joe enjoyed the beers and we had a lovely collection of appetisers to share. Very full! Now off to bed as we’re up early for the Stampede Parade tomorrow morning!

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