As we approach mid January, I’ve already made progress on one of my New Year’s resolutions which was to get my photo work on display in a gallery or show at least four times this year. Last Tuesday, Anne and I took a framed print down to the Wickenburg Art Center (WAC) for display and sale in their gallery. I posted an article last month about having my work juried so that I could take part in local events. A side benefit of the jury process is that I can hang some work in their gallery.
The framed print that we have on display is the 4:5 version of Kluane Lake and Ruby Range that I shot this summer while in the Yukon Territories. It was one of the prints that I submitted for jurying, and since it was ready to go, it was an easy choice.
The Wickenburg Art Center gallery is at 188 S. Tegner Street. That’s two blocks south of US60. Tegner is the Wickenburg old main street and the light immediately west of the railroad underpass. If you’re in the area, stop in and enjoy the work local artisans have on display.
My next project is to get two prints ready for the Gold Rush Days Fine Arts Show in February. Those will be on display in the Wickenburg Library from February 10th through the 12th. I haven’t decided what to submit yet and perhaps you can help. I need to have the photos printed and framed by the beginning of the month and I think they should have a common theme. Should I submit two images from our trip? Maybe a couple of the local landscapes would be better; or how about a pair of old buildings as a submission? Which two of my images would you like to see hung on the wall? Let’s hear your comments.
This morning I added another image to the New Work section of my Website. It’s called Rental Canoes at Lake Louise and I took this photograph in June this year while on our Alaska journey. I originally published the picture in the blog entry; Lake Louise – Alberta. This is the official edition as processed on my office set-up.
This image is a cluster of red rental canoes tied up at the Lake Louise dock. It rained off and on during the day and only a few hearty souls ventured out onto the lake. In the background is the swanky Fairmont Chateau at Lake Louise. If you travel to Alberta Canada, Lake Louise is a must stop, and if you have the where-with-all to spring for a room and/or meal at the hotel, you won’t be disappointed; highly recommended.
We spent three nights in Vancouver at a very nice RV Park, but when we got ready to leave yesterday morning, I found out that it was only a couple of miles from the border crossing. “Great,” I told Anne, “We’ll get a late start, I’ll buy gas with the remaining Canadian money, and still be in Seattle by noon.” Since it was early on Wednesday morning, we really didn’t expect much traffic, there was little reason to go eleven miles out of our way to the smaller port of entry on BC15.
As it turns out, BC99 is Interstate 5 after crossing the border, and very few customs stations handle more traffic than this one. It was ten lanes wide with traffic backed up for a quarter of a mile. We were committed now, so I picked a slow lane. It really didn’t matter, because which ever lane we would have chosen, would wind up the slow lane.
After about a half hour, we finally made it to the customs agent (or are they TSA? maybe border patrol . . . whatever), who turned out to be Edwina (Holly Hunter in Raising Arizona). She rattled off the standard questions; Where do you live?, How long were you in Canada, Why did you go to Canada, did you buy anything in Canada, are you carrying any meat or produce with you . . .
“Well, we have some bacon, but we bought that in Montana, and some steaks, which we bought at the Anchorage Costco. We don’t have and citrus.” (I knew that citrus is a very bad thing to have.) “We just have a tomato, a couple of potatoes and an onion.”
Hearing that, Ed’s eyes narrowed and her lips pursed and she filled out an orange slip and slapped it on the windshield. “Follow the yellow arrows to the building over there, then take the form inside along with your passports for further inspection.” We obediently followed the yellow arrows and went inside.
Inside, there was a very long line, which as it turned out, was for the bathrooms. Relieved (in a different kind of way), we entered the main hall and saw a much bigger line snaking its way to a very large counter. Forget what you know about TSA lines, this was worse. There actually were two lines, one said Nexus, Agriculture, Meat. That line was empty, so it couldn’t possibly be the right one. The other line was for everybody else and everybody else was already in that line.
We stood for a moment trying to figure out which line we belonged in, when a sweet young customs woman walked up and asked if she could answer our questions. We explained what Ed had told us and we were just trying to figure out which was the correct line.
“Oh, this is for produce, you’re here to see me, come up to the counter over there.” That was a first, but who was I to argue. We met her at the counter and handed our passports and orange form to her and explained about where we lived, why we went to Canada, how long we were there, where we left the States and did we own the truck and trailer. She slipped a declaration slip across the counter for us to fill out and sign.
“We’ll need to inspect the produce, may I have the keys please?”
“Sure, I show you,” I offered.
“No, you and your wife take a seat on the window sill over there and we’ll call you when we’re ready. Is this the trailer key?”
I explained that it wasn’t and told her where the trailer keys could be found in Fritz. Then we took our place on the window sill, with all the other smugglers.
After what seemed like an hour, but was probably only half that long, she came back in and summoned us to the counter. She showed us a bag of evidence: the remaining beautiful beefsteak tomato and five small Yukon Gold potatoes we bought from Michael in Clinton. “I’ll have to confiscate this produce.”
Anne actually blurted out, “Can I at least have a bite of the tomato?” That didn’t go over very well, and she moved the bag out of reach then bid us a safe trip and handed back our passport and signed orange slip. As we left, she said something curious, “Be sure to check the trailer and lock it.” So, once outside, we did.
It was now noon-thirty; two and a half hours later. We got into Fritz and headed out the exit with our orange get out of jail free card. The gate guard examined it and lifted the barrier. Once again, we were free US Citizens.
We stopped for lunch and then headed for our new camp site. After checking in and parking the trailer, we opened the door. Aah! It looked like two pigs had a cat fight in there. The doors and drawers were all left opened and all of their contents spilled out on the floor. Neither one of us knew how to react. I felt so . . . violated.
We’re spending a couple of days in the Seattle area to restock, regroup and to visit some dear friends living here. After that we’ll be traveling over the Cascades to Yakima, the center of Washington wine country. We could use a bottle or two.
It was our last day in Canada, so how could we not visit British Columbia’s capital city, Victoria? Of course that means taking the ferry from Vancouver and a bus ride downtown. The cost of a walk-on ferry ride is $16.50 (Canadian) each way, and an all day bus pass is $5.00 (Canadian), so the trip wasn’t expensive. Riding the bus, however, doesn’t allow you time to dawdle and take pictures, and when I have to take public transit, Weird Al Yankovic’s, Another One Rides the Bus constantly runs through my brain.
Since we had limited time to spend in Victoria, I asked her majesty what she most wanted to do. Unequivocally, she answered that she’d like to have lunch at the Empress Hotel. “That’s where the Queen stays when she visits, and so I should appear there too.” She offered to buy, so why not.
When the bus dumped us off at the inner harbor, I thought to myself, “Wow! This is the closest I’m going to get to Monaco.” Like the famous principality, the inner harbor is rectangular, with the Legislature building on the left flank, some other grand buildings on the right flank, and the Empress Hotel commanding the center two blocks.
The harbor is full of yachts of all sizes, and is very busy with water taxis, float planes, and the Ferries from Washington. Adding to the festival are street artists performing for coins in a hat. There was even a man crocheting a scarf with a hat out for donations. That was a new one for me.
If there isn’t enough activity there to keep your attention, fisherman’s wharf is a few blocks in one direction, while Chinatown a few in the other. Food? It seemed that every other store front was a restaurant. I did a search on TripAdvisor.com and in Victoria, there are over eight hundred restaurants to choose from.
As for lunch, we had an excellent experience on the Empress’s front veranda. I am so going to steal that recipe for a simple grilled chicken sandwich, with a side of dill seasoned French fries. The down side was that I had to keep dragging Anne back to our table, because she kept trying to wave to the passing crowd from the head of the stairs. If you want to eat at the Empress, let me warn you, the bill comes in a white envelope. Class, real class.
After our two-hour lunch, we walked around the harbor and strolled down to fisherman’s wharf before calling it a day and catching the bus back to Swartz Bay (and another gets on . . . ) to catch a ferry back to Vancouver. To top off an already great day, there wasn’t any traffic on the drive back to the RV Park . . . perfect.
We’ve been in Vancouver for two consecutive days and at the end of each day, we’ve been caught up in traffic that, in each time lasted over an hour and one half. As I explained in the last post, the jam was due to a freeway construction closure, today there was an accident in the tunnel. As the traffic crawled along (my average miles per hour for the day was 15 mph), Queen Anne found an alternate route on the map.
We took the off ramp and sped away from the caterpillar of cars and within a half mile, caught the end of another caterpillar. The radio announcer updated the traffic report. “Traffic on the 99 is dead slow due to a head on collision in the Massey Tunnel. If you’re in that mess, just stick it out because traffic everywhere else is worse.” Jeez! We were trying to make our way back to camp after having a marvelous day in Vancouver.
It started in the morning when I came back from the camp office and told Anne that the air smells of west coast. It’s a pleasant smell of moist cool air with a hint of ocean. The last couple of days, the mornings are not quite cool enough for a light sweater, and shorts and tee-shirt are perfect in the afternoon.
Trying to figure out a schedule for the day, we came across an online debate comparing the famous Butchart Gardens on Vancouver Island, and the gardens at Queen Elizabeth Park in Vancouver. They’re both stunning rock quarry gardens, but one is open to the public and doesn’t need a ferry ride. So we decided to check it out.
When we got there we found that there was a rather nice restaurant next to the park, and that called for lunch. The restaurant, Seasons at the Park, looked pretty swanky, so when we walked in I asked about a dress code. “We have none.” Planners built The Seasons on the highest hill in Vancouver and our window table had a view of downtown with the coastal mountains in the distance. Up close, the window overlooked the gardens. It was hard to concentrate on lunch, which by the way, was excellent.
Afterwards, we took a leisurely stroll among the flowers and trees. I’ve been to a couple of renown gardens, and I can’t believe this place is free to the public and so immaculate. If you don’t care so much for formal gardens, the Vancouver Botanical Gardens is next door. You could OD on plants in one day, if you had the mind to.
Anne wanted me to see the Gastown District. In 1886, Vancouver, like San Francisco, suffered from a catastrophic fire, which destroyed large sections of the original town. The Gastown was spared of the fire, so the historic buildings left now hold fashionable stores, sidewalk cafes, boutiques and galleries. All of the things that draw tourists, and they were there in droves. Although the district is about three blocks wide, the good stuff is on Water Street. If you miss it by a block, you’ll find yourself in the mission district, but there’s spill over anyway.
We walked the sidewalks and came across a crowd hanging around an old brass grandfather-style clock with four faces. I noticed the time was a few minutes before three, so I guessed the crowd was waiting for the clock to chime. While we hung around, I read the clocks plaque. It’s a steam clock! I thought it was a relic of the 1800’s and it’s still working . . . amazing! At the stroke of three, the top whistles began to play the Westminster Quarters. This was way too cool, and to prove it, the crowd applauded as it finished.
I’ve learned since then that Raymond Saunders built the clock in 1977 because the city needed to do something about a steam vent on a crowed city sidewalk. The clock is steam-powered, except for an electric motor driving a wheel that controls the chime notes. Wikipedia also mentions that the clock was on Nickelback’s album Here and Now.
After a great day the Queen and I got on the freeway for camp . . .
Since we left Prince George yesterday, we’ve been following route 97 that parallels the Fraser River. Its source is in the Canadian Rockies and it’s mouth is Vancouver. The Fraser is the major drainage system for British Columbia.
Most of yesterday’s highway climbed from Prince George to Clinton located on the three thousand foot Fraser Plateau. Following the river downstream and driving uphill all day confused me. I knew we were climbing because of our poor fuel mileage. Today was different.
As soon as we left Clinton we began to descend. As the road plunged off the plateau, and the vegetation changed. Instead of the trees, we entered a dry high desert, like around Reno, Nevada. Scrub brush and low sage covered the hills. The BC coastal range removes moisture from the air just as the Sierras do in California, creating a rain shadow on their downwind side.
We stopped for lunch in Hope. It’s a pretty little town along the Fraser. They hold chainsaw wood carving contests here and the town shows off the winning pieces as public art. While we walked around looking at them, we came across some nice hot rods parked outside a diner. I guess a car club was out for a Sunday road trip.
At Cache Creek we left Hwy 97 and picked up Canadian Route 1 which follows the river’s edge through Fraser Canyon and Hell’s Gate. Route 1 is a Trans Canadian Highway, but this section even intimidated me. The highway and Canadian Railroad run along the steep mountainsides above the river. Like the train tracks, there are a series of tunnels you have to go through. They’ve named them. The worst was the one called Hell’s Gate. I didn’t like it, because it’s narrow, dark and has a couple of curves in it. I held my breath as I hurtled through it with the trailer chasing me.
The river finally bottoms out into a delta as shown by the farms and produce stands along the road sides. And then, miraculously it became a freeway, or interstate . . . or inter-province . . . I’m so confused. You know what I mean, one of those roads with four lanes with broad grassy dividers and off ramps.
Fritz was happily speeding along and holding up traffic when everything came to a stand-still. “No! Not now, my GPS says I only have two and a half miles to go.” It took an hour and forty-five minutes to get there. The freeway (whatever) was under repair, and closed on Sunday. No warning, no lane merging markers, only three pylons at the exit and a highway truck parked with flashing lights. I knew I needed to rehabilitate myself to traffic, but I didn’t need to be thrown in the deep end.
I was fortunate enough to have programmed my GPS before I left this morning, otherwise I would have tried to find a way back to the highway without detour signs. The good news is now I know where the Mercedes, Porsche, BMW, Ferrari and Lamborghini dealers are in Vancouver.
We obediently followed the GPS lady’s instructions to our RV park. One of the sights we wanted to visit in Victoria was Butchart Gardens. As we drove into the park, it looked like we found the back gate. We’ve never stayed in such an ostentatious place before . . . we’re not sure how to act. Anyway, they separated us from the regulars, and we got a spot in the overflow parking lot but required to have the local mobile RV wash guy come by and “clean that filthy mess you call a trailer.” Listen, if it saves me the cost of a ferry ticket, it’s worth it.
We’ve driven about two hundred and fifty miles south of Prince George today (‘about’ means they measure things in that demonic metric system here, so you can’t trust those commie numbers). It’s only another four hours to Vancouver, but we stopped here for the evening because … well, we could. Besides, we found an exciting RV Camp in the travel catalog we’ve gone by, so we stopped to check it out.
It’s like any other camp we’ve grown used to over the past two months, except it has grass and shade trees. We pulled in and parked. I got out and tried to follow the maze of signs to the office. I wandered about for a while before finding a full-size cut out of Donald Trump, wearing a baseball cap and holding a sign that said, “Welcome to Clinton.” After catching my breath, I ventured further, and somehow, I wound up in a kitchen when a voice bellowed, “Can I help you?” I replied that I was looking for the park office. The relatively large gentlemen responded, “Well, you’ve found it. If you took off your sunglasses, you’d be able to see that.”
Anne had followed me in and, assuming from the press blurb that he was the proprietor, asked if he was Michael. “It’s Sir Michael to you.” That’s all it took; we were staying. As we checked in, he told us about the Road Kill Grill on-site restaurant; “You kill it, we’ll cook it.” If you haven’t dragged in something of your own, there is a choice of several protein mains with an all-you-can-eat side dish buffet. It didn’t sound appetizing, but the food was delicious. The flavors were complex, and despite his demeanor, he knew how to cook. You must bring your wine or beer to the table. Otherwise, alcohol isn’t allowed in the restaurant.
Because the evening was still early, Michael had time to join us at our table. As I suspected, he’s a world traveler and explained that he spends time in the Philippines when he closes the park for winter. Even though his sense of humor is fierce, it didn’t take long to realize that it’s his public face and he’s a wealth of local information when you get beyond that façade.
I’d recommend dessert when you come. Ours was a hot crisp with rhubarb and wild berries (picked from the surrounding hills) topped with black cherry ice cream. Even rhubarb haters will find something to like in this.
If you like fresh restaurant vegetables, they’re for sale. They’re grown in the park’s garden (except the tomatoes). There’s a stand at the entrance where you can select what you want. We couldn’t help but buy some onions, potatoes, tomatoes, and one of the monster zucchini from the bins. I don’t know where or how we’ll cook them, but we’ll figure something out.
Tomorrow, we will reach Vancouver, where we can stop and visit for a couple of days. I’m searching for a meal that I saw on Triple D. If I find it, it may well be the last thing I ever eat . . . heart attack city.