Archive for December, 2011

Lincoln City, Oregon

Tuesday, December 20th, 2011

Portland to Lincoln City, Oregon today. 

We made a point to go and see the Portland Japanese Gardens before we left.   we arrived at 10:40 and discovered that they had a noon opening time.   After a short discussion about bailing on the idea and pressing on, we decided to explore the Portland neighborhoods around the park are until it was noon.    Probably one of the better decisions we’ve made on this trip

Exploring the areas near the park was rewarding.   Lots of cool houses on very hilly dead-end streets.   Each house with its own unique look to it.   What Colette calls “character”.

Then down into the city before we went back up the hill to the park and the Japanese Gardens.   We passed a Safeway and Colette went in while I parked and waited in a loading zone.   Her mission:   To secure two Chocolate Cookies.   “The secretary will disavow any knowledge of your mission if discovered …  good luck ….”. 

Yum, after a long wait (she said several “pokey butts” were clogging things up inside), she and the cookies arrived and all was well.   The ‘mission’ was on track and we were right with the world.

Up the hill to the Japanese Gardens and a wonderful hour and a half.   Thanks again to Katy for the excellent suggestion.  Colette says she shot the most photos here of any place we’ve been.   

I remembered many of the motifs from earlier Japanese Gardens I’ve been involved with.  Subtle, balanced, organic, beautiful, inviting, .. I run out of words to describe what can really only be seen with your eyes and feelings.

I don’t know why, but lots of Japanese stuff really appeals to me.   Their gardens, their houses, their movies and their literature.  Indeed, I’m reading Haruki Murakami’s “Kafka on the Shore” to Colette aloud in the evenings when time permits.  And I plan to run “The Seven Samurai” and other Japanese movie classics by her when we return to New Zealand.

Once we finished at the gardens, we began our exit from Portland.  I don’t know what it is about this town but getting into it and out of it can, at times, be a real trial.    I won’t go into the gory details but it took us an hour and a half to get cleanly out of the city and on our way.  Jeez!  Clogged freeways, shitty signage, etc., etc.

Our ‘way’ was down the 99W to highway 18 to the Oregon coast where we’re going to begin our long trek down the coast to Los Angeles. 

We arrived in Lincoln City around dark and checked into a nice place with a good price – $42 for the night.   

We went out and I exposed Colette to another bit of Americana; the order-at-the-bar with a salad bar Pizza Parlor.   You know the kind; where the coaches bring the baseball team after a game or a practice.   Where they have electronic games in one corner and sports TVs going on every wall.  And where everything’s been left in the hands of 17 year olds?  Yep, that’s the one.

The Pizza was OK but nothing to write home about.

Then it was back to our room where I discovered that I was dog tired and went to bed early.  

I suspect that 40 days on the road shifting from place to place day after day and seeing new sights and people every moment of the day may be something that eventually wears on one.   On the bright side, I have to say that Colette and I have been pressed together without relief for these same 24/7 40 days and we haven’t had a fight or even a squabble.   I think that says something.   She’s a wonderfully sane lady who comes from a world so different from the one I grew up in.

Tomorrow, we’re up and on down the coast.   We plan to be at my friend, Dave’s, place in Benicia by mid-day on the 23rd and a look at the maps and miles convinces me that we can proceed fairly leisurely and make it fine.   I’m quite looking forward to seeing him again and hanging out at his place.


Portland, Oregon

Monday, December 19th, 2011

We had a full day in Portland, today.   

We began the day at a motel in Castle Rock, Washington where we ended up after our adventures with Mt. St. Helens yesterday.

We got up, had some breakfast in the room, filled the car with gas (brrr, it was cold out pumping the gas) and took off down the road.   Today, before we left out for Portland, we planned our route.   It seemed a judicious thing todo after the chaos of our last entry into Portland in the grid-locked traffic, darkness and rain when we spent two hours trying to get to our hotel.

The route planning was good and we entered the city and vectored directly to our accommodations which is/was at the University Place Inn on the campus of Portland State University.   Nice place – recommended.

Once in, we went out (what else?).  We found the trolley system and went riding.   Went to Jake’s in a big hotel downtown for a meal.   Nice ambiance and good Eggs Benedict.  Then it was off to Powell’s books where we both bought a few books (not like we don’t already have plenty!).   Then we walked through the older and seedier part of town to the waterfront and walked along that.

Then back onto the trolleys and we went looking for the big city center shopping mall area. We found it.   It was big and pretty and thronged with shoppers.   I poked my nose into the Apple store looking to see what the newest versions of the iPhone are going for.   Answer: 64 GB for $399 if slaved to the AT&T Network and $699 if free from network linkages.   And, they are constantly sold out.   I decided to give it a ‘bye’ for now.

After that, we decided to sit in a bar where we could watch the crowds go by and we found one and sat there for about an hour watching and talking.   Then we walked home to the Inn which was quite a ways.

I’d sent my friend Joel, who lives in the Portland area, E-Mails earlier in the day hoping to connect with him for lunch or supper.   After we got back to the room he called.   He’d just got my E-Mails and he’d been in Portland dancing Tango all afternoon.   He was home now again across the river in Vancouver, Washington.   We talked about 20 minutes and he decided to come over and see us at the Inn as it was only about 15 minutes.

He came and we had a great time talking.   He makes jewelry and he brought a lot of his stuff to show us.   It was really nice.   He had one set of earrings I really liked and  I asked him about them for Colette and he gave them to us for Christmas!   Nice.

Joel is such a trip.   I call him my ‘pirate’ friend.   He is truly an ‘out there’ artistic personality.   I’ve known him ever since we were both in university together in the 1970’s.

And thus ended another day.   Tomorrow, we’re off to see the Japanese Gardens here in Portland and then we’ll begin working our way down the coast towards San Francisco and my friend, Dave’s, house.


Climate change and craving a cause

Monday, December 19th, 2011

I read this and I think it explains a lot about why folks don’t believe in climate change and why they seem to go for anything and everything that runs against convential wisdom.

I, myself, think there’s a lot that’s bogus and unreliable in the information that surrounds us but I also think that I’m picking and choosing what to accept and what to reject based on reasonable grounds rather than on a one-size-fits-all type of reaction.

Mt. St. Helens & Castle Rock, Washington

Saturday, December 17th, 2011

Today’s Saturday here in the USA and we’ve moved from Port Townsend to Castle Rock, Washington. 

When we left Port Townsend, we drove down the length of the Hood Canal on the western side.   I’m not sure I’ve ever gone that route before.    It was pretty but the fog was heavy at a lot of places along there so visibility came and went.

Our goal was to take a look at Mt. St. Helens today and then press on to Portland for the night.   We didn’t get that far.

When we left Interstate 5 to turn east to Mt. St. Helens, I misread the map and put us on a course for the eastern approach to the mountain from which one cannot get to the main observation point (Johnson Ridge) nor the Visitor’s center.   Colette was very kind about my error but, in the end, it cost us three hours of an already short winter’s day.

When we finally recovered and got on the right track, it was late and we just made it to our destination as the sun was setting. Even so, we still got some excellent photos.

Coming back, we decided to stay at a motel at Castle Rock just off Interstate 5 and to push on into Portland in the daytime tomorrow.

The weather’s finally come right today and we have (other than foggy patches) clear skies which always make things look nice.


Port Townsend, Washington – day 2

Friday, December 16th, 2011

Port Townsend has turned out to be as nice as we’d hoped.   A fun, vibrant and cute town way out on a peninsula of land between Seattle to the east and Port Angeles to the west.  

There was a time, a hundred or more years ago, when this town was the 2nd largest port in The USA.  But, the vagaries of history pulled the rug of growth out from under it then and the population of approximately 7000 dropped to 2000 almost overnight.   

Later, when war was in the offing, several forts were built in the area to protect the inner areas of the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Puget Sound among other areas and a sense of prosperity returned.

But, then the war ended and the forts were abandoned or turned into parks (Like Fort Worden – just beside Port Townsend).   It was quiet again here through the end of the 1980’s but then it started to pick up and today the place is in growth mode and at about 9000 souls.   One third of them are retired folks.  There’s wood pulping, custom wooden boat building, some High Tech and various other things.

One long-term stroke of luck for the town was that after the initial major building boom at the end of the 19th century, the many old and beautiful brick buildings of that period have survived down to today and add to the quaint and attractive nature of the town.   Colette will, I hope, post some of the pictures we’ve shot around town today.

We began, after a breakfast of yogurt, melon and granola in our room, with a walk into town from our motor inn.   We walked up and down the main street an admired the old buildings and then found a good place for coffee.

We walked the main street again and then went up the hill to have a look at the Jefferson County Courthouse (circa 1892?).   Colette wanted to check out the courthouse and one of the ladies there let us in for a look.

Later in the afternoon, we drove back in and had a coffee and a sandwich at another shop and then went walking the street again. 

One place we stopped into was the local museum where the fellow looking after the place gave us an excellent introduction to the it and then turned us loose for a look.   Fascinating stuff.   Loggers, seamen, prostitutes, gamblers and rough types of all sorts made up the lower (by the water) part of town in the early days.   Up on the bluff above, lived the merchants and respectable ladies.

I learned a new word today; ‘crimper’.   A crimper is a fellow who makes sure that the ships in port have all the crewmen they need by whatever means is necessary.  Shanghai’ing is what they were doing.   Life was hard then and if you went drinking in the wrong bar, a couple of knock-out drops might go into your drink and out you’d go and you’d find yourself, when you woke bound, for China as an ordinary seaman and it would not be a good situation.  Jack London came through here.

I also wandered into a new-age bookstore called “The Phoenix” and I think it’s the best shop of its type I’ve ever seen. if you are curious.   It had a huge selection of stuff.   I talked to the owner and she’s been there doing this for 25 years.

After those adventures, we got in the car and went riding up and down the residential streets just to get more of a feel for the place.   We also drove over into Fort Worden and had a look around though it was getting to be deep twilight by then.

Back to Safeway where Colette picked out the bits for supper.   And back here in the room, she made us an excellent spinach, crumbled feta cheese, snow peas, toasted almond slices, sliced strawberries and balsamic vinaigrette dressing salad which was very nice.  And, as she said smiling, ‘No cooking was required’.   And, of course, I waded into my 2nd can of Foster’s Premium Ale (had the 1st one last night).

And now we’re having a quiet evening in.   Tomorrow, we’re off to our next adventure – possibly down the Mt. St. Helens area for a look about.


Port Townsend, Washington – day 1

Friday, December 16th, 2011

Left for the USA this morning.   A bit sad to leave Vancouver.   I really love that city and its energy.  I think it may be both Colette and my favorite place we’ve visited so far and there have been many beautiful places along the way.  The high-rise apartments, the intense multi-culturalism, the bus/light-rail/boat transport system, the mountains looming over the city from the north, the skyline … all of it speaks deeply to me.  I can see why Vancouver is often rated among the world’s top cities.

Exiting town was a non-event.  We stopped at a Safeway and bought some apples and a deli sandwich for the road and we were off.   

We’d planed to go east and then re-enter Washington State on highway 9 but in the confusion of exiting town, we forgot that plan and thus retuned as we came; on US Interstate 5.

At the US border, I was curious to see how stringent the security would be.   I was also curious to see if Colette’s reentry would be smooth or fraught with bureaucratic fussing.   It turned out to be a non-issue.   We stopped and I handed over the passports and the fellow asked me a few questions and looked at his computer and we were good to go.   No confiscation of our deli-sandwich as a threat to American security, no interrogation of my foreign national traveling companion, jus a question about what we were doing and how we came to have a dent in the side of our rental car.

Down the road again on cruise-control.   I turned off onto Chuck-A-Nut Drive just south of Bellingham and followed it along the coast.   It’s a beautiful coastal alternative to highway 5.   It was the first road connecting Bellingham to points south.   Prior to that, boats were its only connection.   The road was completed in 1896 and it’s still a wild and beautiful bit of road today.

South … ever south to the outlet stores at the Tulalip Reservation where Colette wanted to revisit several of the stores she’d looked at on the way north.   Once there, I sat in the cafe area and played on the computer and read while she shopped.   It was a nice break from driving for me.   Oh, and there was a big chocolate cookie that I consumed as well (yum!).

She returned happily with several purchases in tow that she’d gotten at prices FAR below what she’d have paid in New Zealand and then we were off again.

During the drive today, we’d been discussing the various options before us with regard to routing and, after some discussion, we decided for various reasons to abandon the idea of going to Port Angeles and crossing to Victoria in BC.   

Instead, we opted to go to Port Townsend and check in for two nights so we can have a quiet and leisurely look about town and to rest a bit.   In fact, we’ve decided, after our experiences thus far, that it makes the best sense to spend two nights at most places where we stop so we have a full day to check things out without having to ‘up sticks’ at mid-day and scurry to the next place.

It’s been many years since I’ve been to Port Townsend but my memories of it were quite positive.   I was hoping I’d remembered well as it is a bit off the beaten track.

It was just after dark when we reached Edmonds and lined up for the ferry crossing to Kingston.   And, it was nearly 7 PM before we reached Port Townsend and checked into the Aladdin Motor Inn.  We got a nice room at the end of the building and looking out over the bay beside Port Townsend.   Colette made us a light meal of melon, granola and yogurt and I have a big can of Australian Fosters and we both fell into bed and we were out like lights.

Port Townsend, at least what we could see if it as we pulled in after dark, was as I remembered it.   A bit like Astoria, Oregon.   Old brick buildings, a slightly funky counter-culture feel to it.   Lot’s of coffee shops, antique stores, books stores and the like.   Obviously, a tourist destination in the nicer months of the year but quite quiet now.


Vancouver, B.C., Canada – day 4

Thursday, December 15th, 2011

Today is an extra day in Vancouver.  We like it here so much, we’ve decided to extend a day.   However, we are going to switch to a new motel over in North Vancouver.

In the morning, we got in the car and drove to the Whole Foods market at 8th and Cambie and had granola, yogurt and coffee.

Then, we drove back to the room, packed everything up into the car, checked out, made sure it would be OK if we left the car in their lot post-checkout and then walked to the local bank.

There, we changed an Australian $10 for about $9.78 Canadian so we’d have enough to each buy two bus tickets for the day (at $2.50 per ticket, two rides are cheaper than an all day ticket @ $9.00).  I still had a small amount of Canadian change as well as the $9.78 we’d just received.

We took bus #19 which routes through Chinatown where we wanted to take a look around.   Chinatown here is old.   It seems a lot like the one in San Francisco to me.   Lots of food markets with their wares displayed on the sidewalk and inside, nearly always, rows and rows of big jars on the walls full of mysterious things.  Colette’s put up pictures of all this stuff on her Facebook page (Colette Meehan).

We found the Dr. Sun Yat Sen park in Chinatown and had a walk through it.   A beautiful place that I had no idea existed.

From there, we walked towards Gastown a bit to the north and this took us through an intermediate area and across the street, Hastings.   I recall from the early 80’s that Hastings was the locus for the rougher elements in town. The bums, the homeless and the drunks with attitude.  Indeed, I saw one today.   He just walked right into my personal space like I wasn’t there and then proceeded across a busy street (Hastings) completely ignoring the lights and the traffic – oblivious when a truck honked its horn at him.  Nice.

Once in Gastown (named after a fellow named ‘Gassy Jack’ (don’t ask)), we found a nice coffee shop (The Coffee Bar on Water Street) and had coffees and a small lemon bar and watched folks walk by out on the street.   We are both big people watchers and we spend maybe 40 minutes entertaining ourselves this way.

Then we walked off to find the stream-driven clock of Gastown.  The clock’s a quite famous tourist destination.   But, just as we spotted it, Colette saw an gallery of Inuit influenced art (paintings, sculpture and furniture among other things).   Inuit Galley of Vancouver, Limited (   Beautiful stuff inside.  Some by native artists and some by non-natives but deeply influenced by native motifs.   I saw some furniture that I stood and looked at for a long time.  Colette liked it all as well. 

We were so impressed by the Inuit stuff, that we walked on and never did look at the stream-drive clock.

Soon, we found ourselves at the Sea Bus terminal which we’d used to cross to the North Vancouver side the other day.   Inside, there was a restaurant, “The Rogue Kitchen and Wetbar”, and we decided to go there for a light lunch.   It was  a nice upscale place just mere blocks from the bums of Hastings.   Lots of professionals in business dress out for a nice lunch.

From the restaurant, it was just a step to the SkyTrain which shares the Sea Bus Terminal.   We got on the King Edward line and four or five stations later, we jumped off at Main Street/Science Centre where we switched to the #19 which runs up past the motel where we’d left our car parked.   All these moves with the bus/train/boat system here are beginning to seem familiar; the names of the stations and how things are arranged.

We recovered the car and headed over to North Vancouver via the same route we followed the first night in town; across the Granville Bridge, into downtown, along Georgia Street into Stanley Park and then up and over the Lion’s Gate Bridge into North Vancouver.  We were bound for Capilano Road and one of two motels we’d scoped out on

It turned out that the North Vancouver Hotel was the one we liked so we checked in. has saved us a lot of money on this trip.   We find out what a place’s low-rate is before we engage them and then, if their at-the-counter quote is something higher, we point out to them that they are advertising a lower rate on-line.   Works like a charm.  $89 went to $76 here.

After checking in, we just relaxed a bit.   The idea was that later in the evening, we were going to investigate a harp concert we’d discovered by chance the other day in a small Vancouver newspaper.    About 5:00PM, we took off to see if we could locate the Harp concert venue at Capilano University and if there were still tickets available.

It was raining and here we were again heading out to a place we had only half an idea of where it might be,   But, we’re getting to be old masters at this sort of thing.   So, after some false starts in the dark and rain, we found it on the campus.   Inside, we determined that the ticket booth was not going to open for another hour but that there were still tickets available.   We talked to a nice fellow (the facilities manager, Gary?) who made a note so that the ticket booth people would save us two of the best remaining tickets when they opened and he left it for them.  Then he gave us some (very good) advice where we might find a place to eat in the local area.

It turned out to be “The Pantry” which was beside the Holiday Inn which was not too far from the university.   We had a nice meal there served by a lady with an accent like Marge’s in the movie, “Fargo” and then we headed back for the concert.

As promised, nice tickets had been held for us (the event was very nearly sold out) on the right side in the 4th row back.   They were perfect.

Before the concert proper, there was a small group out in the lobby that played for us and while they were young, they had real talent and promise and it was fun listening to them.

Finally, it was 7:30PM and the main event began.   I estimated that there was 400 to 600 people there and the hall was virtually full.

The music?    Excellent.   They had several unique medieval musical instruments that neither Colette nor I had ever heard of and they play all of their instruments very professionally.  If was an excellent concert and both of us were very happy at our luck to have chanced upon it.  “WinterHarp” is the name of the Canadian group – highly recommended.

Then, another drive in the rain (easier this time) back to our room.   An excellent day!

Tomorrow, we’re off headed south again into the USA.


Vancouver, B.C., Canada – day 3

Tuesday, December 13th, 2011

At 7:30 AM this morning, I was loath to roll out of bed it was so nice and warm.   But, up we got and prepared for another day on the road here in Vancouver.

We walked three blocks to a market where we could buy all-day bus tickets and then, with these in hand, we went to the bus stop to take the bus into the central city.  But, we got on the #25 rather than the #19 and the #25 goes out to the University of British Colombia.   A few moments of discussion and we decided to just ‘go with it’ and see what unfolded.   We both like to tour universities and we like adventures.

The bus ride was through areas of the city that were new to us so it was interesting.   We arrived at the central bus terminus on the campus and got out and had a look around.  The first order of business was coffee and a light breakfast and we located a small shop where we each got a cream cheesed bagel and a cup of Java as we each like it; a latte for me and an expresso for Colette.

A long walk around parts of the campus failed to ignite us.  We were looking for a central quad area or a campus clock tower of some sort of focus.  But walk and look as we might, we saw nothing like that.   We did find the student union and explored it a bit but as soon as that novelty was over, we elected to get back on the bus and head for our next adventure.   

After asking a bus driver, we determined that if we took the #22 from the campus, it would drop us right into the heart of downtown.

Back downtown, we took a walk and quickly found ourselves by the Vancouver Courthouse.   It’s a huge building with a sloped roof made entirely of glass.   Colette, of course, works for the Ministry of Justice on New Zealand so she like to see courthouses in other parts of the world to see what’s different and what’s the same.

This one was certainly different.   The entire place, in the middle of a normal workday Tuesday, was virtually deserted.   We saw only two or three people in the entire edifice.  It seemed strange but it was,what it was.   So, we had a good look around, scratched our heads and moved on.

Then we decided it would be fun to get on a SkyTrain and ride it to the end-of-the line to see what we would see.   

We got on one bound for the King George station (the terminus)  in the town of Surrey on the SkyTrain Expo line.  We had one mishap and had to double back a bit but it was all good fun and, eventually we arrived at the end.   But things there looked a bit sparse so we went back one station to Surrey Central and got off and found a huge great complex which was both a major shopping center and a business tower 20 to 30 stories tall.   We had a nice wander in the center even though we weren’t looking for anything in particular.  It was mostly to see how folks lived and what their recreational activities looked like in the suburbs.

After that, we boarded the SkyTrain system again and switched to its Millennium Line and returned to central Vancouver via a different more northerly routing.

Today’s SkyTrain rides were interesting to me in several ways.  

It gave us a chance to see what the commuter’s lives looked like in the greater Vancouver metro area.  And, it’s not too bad.   The trains are clean, fast and the seem to run frequently and there are enough seats.   They’re automated so there’s no engineer on them.   It’s all apparently centrally controlled via computers.

You just can’t help but see the pervasive logic that supports the use of light rail in complex urban areas like Vancouver.   The city is virtually free of freeways, cloverleafs and all that stuff that acts as a separation between a city’s neighborhoods.  Instead, the buses, light rail and SeaBuses provide much of the necessary connectivity to replace the freeways and are so much more efficient in terms of fuel and CO2 emissions.

Another thing I saw that seemed remarkable to me were the clusters of tall apartment towers that rise periodically outside the city’s central area.   They seemed to appear periodically along the light rail avenues in groups of four to ten towers; each 20 to 30 stories tall and all standing in relative proximity to each other.   Colette told me how in Britain, many towers like these are council flats and are actually social hell-holes.  They are nasty, dangerous and rundown.  But none of the ones we had a look at seemed at all like that.   These all looked nice, clean and upscale.

So, people can live miles and miles outside the central city here and take a relatively cheap train ride into and back from work and live many stories up with  huge view in a beautiful apartment building.   That doesn’t seem like a bad thing to me.  In fact, it sounds like a damned nice thing and I find myself wondering why we don’t see more of it in the US.   It’s obviously seems like a good idea to folks here.   As we rode the trains, I saw several big holes in the ground where the land was being prepared for yet another apartment tower in one outlying area or another.

Another thing I noted as I idly watched folks today:   many, many people are listening to and/or typing away on their smart phones; androids, iPhones or whatever.   There’s a lot of energy and attention being spent on these devices.   They are entertaining folks and helping them pass their commuting time.   

It refreshed for me the idea that anyone who knows how to program and has even a glimmer of an idea for an application that could catch some of these folk’s interest should be giving serious consideration to doing some development of their own rather than thrashing away in the jungle of corporate software for other folks.   There’s a huge planet shaking opportunity happening right before our eyes today.

After our train rides (we only covered just a part of the Vancouver light rail network), we returned to downtown and worked our way to the same Japanese restaurant we ate at last night, ‘Asahi-Ya’ on Robson.   It was good and we both had exactly the same thing to night as we had last night.

Then, another SkyTrain ride from Burrard Station to Science Station on the Expo Line, off there and onto the 19N bus that runs up Kingsway and bim, boom, bam … we’re in our comfy room again planning tomorrow’s adventures.



Tuesday, December 13th, 2011

Apoligies to those readers who follow this Blog for its environmental and political commentary. I will resume the normal fare here after my current trip is over on January 5th.

Until then, it’s just too much to travel, write up our travels and to follow and comment on the normal stuff.

Rest assured, I do have a look at the international news at least daily and am following events as always.



Vancouver, B.C., Canada – day 2

Tuesday, December 13th, 2011

Whew.   I’m tired after a long day doing things here in Vancouver, British Colombia, in Canada.   It’s 8:30 PM and we’ve just gotten home.

We’ve learned a lot today about how to move about the city via the transport system which, like Brisbane, Australia, includes trains, buses and boats.

We began the day with the free breakfast here at the Days Inn on Kingsway.   Mmmm, that wasn’t anything to write home about.   Let’s just say the room was too small, there were too many people and the food wasn’t much.   Colette ventured that she won’t participate in their free breakfast again.

Once the repast was done, such as it was, we walked to a bank just down the road and traded $30 USD for … $30 CDN and there was no conversion fee charged.   I knew that the exchange rate just now is hovering pretty close to 1:1 but I was surprised that they didn’t ding us for converting on money.   Nice – and good on them.

The we caught the #19 bus that said it was going to Stanley Park.   $2.50 each.   15 minutes later, it let us off in the middle of the park.   Stanley Park, for readers who don’t know, is a huge 1000 acre park on the western end of the peninsula upon which the city of Vancouver stands.   It’s beautiful.   The city runs right up to it and then you suddenly transition from city to park and woods.  

From the drop off point, we walked north until we encountered the seawall and then we began to walk along it heading west.   This took us under the Lion’s Gate bridge which we’d just driven over last night on our first look around.  As we continued around, ships anchored came into view and then, finally, English Bay and, across the way, the neighborhood of Kitsilano.  It was fairly early on a Monday morning so we had a lot of this to ourselves.

Once around to English Bay, we were now into the area called “The West End”.   It’s an area of Vancouver dominated by tall mixed use buildings with high-rise apartments above and stores at ground level.   The area is extremely dense and, in fact has the highest population density in North America; even higher than New York’s Manhattan.

And, lucky for us, the first are we came to sported a Starbucks; which was most appreciated by both of us.  Two coffees and tow chocolate chip cookies later, we were refreshed and now set on our next plan for the day.

And that was to work out how to get up to the top of the Grouse Mountain Ski area which sits on a mountain peak that overlooks Vancouver from the immediate north.

First we determined where the nearest SkyTrain  was on the theory that we’d find the information and connections we’d need there.   It was on Burrard which was eight or ten blocks NNE from where we currently were.   Right!   We like walking and Van. is a particularly interesting city to walk in – so we were off.

We found it (they have a big “T” just by each SkyTrain station) and I called on the public transport system help phone and asked how to do what we wanted to do.   

Piece of cake, it turns out.   Catch the train from Burrard to Waterside Station, get off and catch the SeaBus to North Van. there and once on the other side at Lonsdale Quay, catch the 236 to Grouse Mountain which will be there at the Quay.   And, indeed, it all happened just that way with one connection leading almost seamlessly into the next.   And, we were doing all of these moves on an all-day ticket that we’d each bought for $9.

At Grouse Mountain’s base, which is where the bus brought us, there was a massive huge cable car that runs 20 to 30 folks at a time up to the top of the mountain to the ski area.   The fee was $40 which seemed steep but (later) we were very happy that we’d done it.

The views going up and from the top are outrageous.  And today was a bright and sunny winter day with the temperature right at freezing.   At the top, we took photos, had more coffee, ate a pizza slice each, watched a great movie about the history of Grouse Mountain and then, at sunset, fired off another great burst of photos before we headed back down.

Once down, we retraced our steps; 236 to the SeaBus to the Waterside Stat ion to Burrard Station and then out onto the street.   This took us maybe 30 to 40 minutes, total.  

Once out on Burrard, we oriented ourselves and began to head back towards the West End where we hoped to find a Sushi place.  A bum panhandling tried to con us but we weren’t having nay but, in the process of having a short conversation with us, he mentioned that Robson was the ‘shopping street’ which I then remembered as well.   So, we adjusted our transit towards the West End to use Robson so we could window ship.   Colette found a shop called ‘Zara’ that she liked.

Two passes on Robson and then into a Sushi place called ‘Asahi Ya’ I think it was called.   Good food and friendly people.   I liked that the place was casual too.  The owners had their kids playing in the back.   A Chrashi Don, some Miso Soup and a Sapporo beer and I was a new man (or at least a more refreshed one).  Colette had Miso Soup, a California Roll and some Green Tea.

Now, it was time to work out how to use Vancouver’s cool metro system to get us back out to our Days Inn on Kingsway.    Not too bad.   From the Burrard Station, we headed west three stations to the Main Street station and then jumped off and caught the 19N bus which runs out Kingsway and it dropped us off a half bock from our place.

What an intense and satisfying day.    I would so much rather burn up the hours of my life doing new things every hour of the day like this rather than plodding the same old tired tracks day after day just to make the money to pay the bills so you can have a house to sleep in until you need to get up the next day to start it all over again.

Well, that’s far too pessimistic and negative but I think you probably get the idea.