Ray and Jean's 1999 Vacation

This page is intended as a swift summary of the great 12 days we spent in the USA and Canada, between July 4th. and 16th. 1999.

After a somewhat tedious 9½ hour flight, we stayed up as long as we could, then slept in a rather noisy hotel near to Seattle's Tacoma Airport (SEATAC). The next morning we set off for Robyn's home at Port Ludlow (WA), via a ferry from Seattle's waterfront, close to the new Safeco Field Baseball Stadium. After following excellent directions that had been provided, we arrived around lunchtime. This is some of the marvellous view from Robyn's balcony, which overlooks a golf course to mountains beyond:

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We spent the rest of that day and all of the following day with Robyn, visiting some local areas and strolling around Port Townsend in very pleasant weather (which we must have taken with us, because it had been very wet for some while until we arrived!).

On Wednesday morning we set off (somewhat leisurely) for Port Angeles to catch the ferry across to Vancouver Island. Having spent a very pleasant day, we found a charming shoreside location for the night at Saltair, near Ladysmith, on the East coast between Victoria and Nanaimo. We ate in the Hummingbird Tea Rooms, so - if you're ever in the area - these come personally recommended!

Another leisurely drive into Nanaimo found us just too late to board the ferry as it was full, but the new "Fastcat" was the next to depart, so we parked in the queue and had a look around the town.

The new ferry was certainly an eye-catching craft and very striking inside too. Powered by waterjets, it travels at around 25 knots, yet the wake, whilst remarkably flat, seems to "last" for ever in the sea astern. This, we discovered, was rather a pertinent local issue in West Vancouver, as locals are complaining about light vessels being damaged at their moorings by the wash from the wake, as well as other environmental issues, saying that there is just too much energy in it. Perhaps that explains why it lasts so long? There are two more Fastcats being built, hence the worry. Actually, it turned out to be more of a "Slowcat" in regard to overall journey time, because the off ramp was jammed up for some while when we arrived in Horseshoe Bay.

When we eventually disembarked we set off for our overnight accommodation, booked at an address opposite Rick Rivard's home. This was not to be, as we were moved on to another guest house, the original being unexpectedly full with returning guests. This was not a problem, as the alternate lodgings were bright and welcoming. We met Rick and Nadya and spent a pleasant evening with them until our biological clocks said "time to sleep."

Friday morning started us on our journey towards Calgary, via Highway 5, a toll highway - but who minds paying, with views like this?

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We went as far as Salmon Arm on Highway 1. We stayed in a "Best Western" hotel which was typical of the chain: nothing special, but clean and tidy. After a meal that sounded boring but proved excellent in a nearby eatery and a walk around the area, we retired - the body clocks were still not right yet!

Satuday, July 10th. and off we set along Highway 1 again, passing through Revelstoke and Rogers Pass in the Glacier National Park - more stunning views in plenty. We actually hadn't accounted for crossing a time zone in our travels, but "lost" an hour en route, arriving at our pre-booked hotel in Aidrie a little later than intended. We had needed to pre-book this stop due to the Calgary Stampede that was off and running by this time. As stated, we stayed in Aidrie, even six months earlier we couldn't get a room in Calgary itself. On arrival, we found a message from Elwin, saying that he'd gone out, but would be back by 5.30. Having dumped our cases in our tiny little room, I set off for a lobby telephone - hotel room telephone prices had caught me out before! I rang Elwin's number, only to find his voice-mail, so left a brief message, informing him of our arrival and saying I would check back later. As I replaced the telephone, a voice to my right said: "You must be Ray Girling?" and there stood Elwin himself! What a lovely surprise. Soon, Jean had joined us and we set off for a meal, returning very full and looking forward to the following morning, when Elwin was to take us to some local places of interest.

Sunday morning couldn't arrive quickly enough, as the room had sealed windows and the noisiest air conditioner possible. We couldn't sleep with it on, couldn't sleep in a sealed box, so compromised with the door (onto a public balcony) open!

We met Elwin, as arranged earlier and set off in his car for an eventful day's driving. First stop was at the "Grizzly Bear" diner, at Dead Man's Flats, where two (rather tired) travellers had breakfast and our companion had a coffee. Excellent food and good coffee (a venue well-known to Elwin) later, we resumed our travels and stopping at Takakkaw Falls, Emerald Lake, Spiral Tunnels, and Lake Louise, with some "photo-opportunities" along the way:

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Elwin and Jean - Reiki Masters

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Elwin and Ray - Web Masters

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Emerald Lake

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Running Water - note vacationer (for scale)

On the return trip, we visited Banff and went up Sulphur Mountain in the cable car for an eagle's view. Very impressive and quite windy too! We called into Canmore to look at some new housing developments - very tasteful - then gave the "Grizzly Bear" some more custom at dinner. After a fond farewell to Elwin, the two happy and very tired travellers went to their (newly-reassigned!) larger hotel room - with opening patio-style door onto private balcony - and slept much better.

Monday morning already, where did the time go? We did some fairly serious shopping in Calgary before taking Route 93 out of Banff and the Vermillion Pass. We came upon Marble Canyon and decided to explore further - what a good decision! This is just another "Place of Interest" signposted on one of those ubiqituous brown signboards - but what a stunning little find this was! The canyon is the result (as all canyons are, of course) of erosion by water, but this one is very narrow as well as quite deep, with fallen trees making "gopher bridges" across it, plus several natural arches where the rock strata has fallen from beneath a more robust layer. A very interesting place - highly recommended by your reporters! At the top of the self-guided trail is the river that has done all the hard work and it's here that you appreciate the power of it, as something like fifteen feet (width) of water disappears down into a bore-hole at the top of the canyon with a considerable roar - plus many rainbows in the abundant sunlight.

We finished up at Radium Hot Springs that evening and -having taken a look at the available accommodation at road level - decided to explore further. A very narrow and steep road ended in a charming Swiss-style hotel, in which we found a balconied room that looked straight up the beautiful mountainous valley of the Columbia River. Add to all that an excellent meal in the adjacent restaurant (German proprietor who was an animal photographer, with photograps everywhere, plus a Taiwanese wife/chef who made beautiful necklaces - guess who's got one now?) and a wonderful sunset, result: yet another great day for your intrepid explorers.

Intending to go to Nelson, we had two choices the following morning. We could either use the roads alone, or divert along the 3 Alt. and cross Kootenay Lake on the toll-free ferry. A real no-brainer, this one! Off we went up the 3A and was that a deal for good views! Mind you, the poor driver needed to work hard along the twists and turns of the fairly narrow road in order to get some viewing time in too - but I managed it OK! The ferry crossing was a bonus - into the sun with a nice breeze in late afternoon - just the job. We hauled up at a tidy hotel with a lake view and had yet another excellent dinner at a nearby restaurant before calling it a day.

We had thought that we could get to Kelowna before returning to Seattle, but decided that this might be cutting things a little fine, as we wanted to see something of Seattle itself, so we reluctantly turned south out of Nelson, instead of West, passing through some weirdly-named places, such as Ymir and Salmo. Still more stunning views along the way, Nancy Greene Summit and Phoenix Mountain just two. We crossed the border at Osoyoos and headed off along Highway 97. Our travels brought us to Lake Chelan, where we luxuriated in a brilliant lake-side hotel. Although this was another "Best Western" the part we stayed in was only three weeks old and the suite (with a lakeside balcony) was rather super. OK, a little expensive, but on your thirty-second wedding anniversary - so what?

Thursday afternoon and we're in Seattle city center, having been recommended to take the "Underground tour." At the start, I was a little apprehensive, but we were fortunate to have a tour guide with my sense of humour - so all was well! A very interesting and unusual tour - again recommended by your reporters. You may recall mention of the Safeco Field Baseball Stadium, right at the start of this account? Well, this day was it's inaugural match, so accommodation in Seattle was at a premium and we hadn't thought about it at all. After many ever-increasing circular trips, we found a refurbished motel in what could be described as "an area of interesting local character" but whose signs stating: "Prostitute and Drug Watch Neighborhood" more exactly hit the spot. The room was clean and comfortable and a nearby pizza house dealt with hunger pangs, so all was not lost!

Our final day, Friday July 16th. was cooler and with signs of rain in the distance, so we returned to the Seattle waterfront and went into the Aquarium to pass some pre-flight time. The most attractive exhibit was the Sea Otter enclosure and - especially around our anniversary time - seeing two otters holding hands was quite amusing:

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After some light window-shopping, we went to Boeing's "Museum of Flight" which was on the way to the Airport in any event. This was a very well laid out but quite sterile facility, but impressive nonetheless, especially the Blackbird aircraft in the ground forefront of this picture:

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Having walked through the President's aircraft - Airforce One - all perspex-protected from grubby visitors' hands and much more spartan than I had imagined, we had one final and hearty lunch and under darkening skies arrived back at SeaTac airport. I returned the hire car and we checked in, then sat looking at ever-increasing rain - maybe North America was sorry to see us go? We brought sunshine and left rain, not much of a deal for the locals, but a great one for us. We thoroughly enjoyed our trip, especially meeting for the first time people we had "known" for years.

Heathrow Airport was under blazing sunny skies when we landed at 11 am on Saturday morning and the weather carried on being kind to us all weekend too. All our shopping was intact and undamaged, all our memories too - what a great trip!