29 October 2008

Made It!

Well, we finally made it to our destination - Nanaimo, BC on Vancouver Island. It’s great to know that we’ll unpack soon … for five months. Today on the ferry we were lucky enough to see a large school of Pacific white-sided dolphins. I usually don’t use the word “frolicking” but they really did seem to be frolicking in the water, despite the chilly, rainy weather.

If you ever get to BC, I recommend you explore the Fraser Valley and Hope areas -- west of Vancouver. This entire area is beautiful, ranging from large, craggy mountains to rolling, layered hills running up against gleaming lakes.

28 October 2008

British Columbia

British Columbia's marketing slogan is "The Best Place on Earth." Quite a claim. But after driving across the Province from Banff National Park in the east to Kamloops in the west, the Province's declaration does not to me seem boastful, at least with respect to beauty. These photos are scenes in Banff, the one with water at Lake Louise. To be fair, Lake Louise is in Alberta, not B.C., barely.

We’re in Merritt, B.C. tonight. In particular, I'm sitting in the Merritt Library because, as has been more often the case than not, our hotelier cannot make work its wireless Internet connection. After I verified that the Celtics-Cavaliers game was not on any of the channels our EconoLodge offers (very disappointing, but in general Canadians are not big basketball fans, especially in comparison to hockey), decided I might as well venture out in search of free Internet. It's a beautiful evening anyway.

One more day on the road: Tomorrow we drive to Vancouver--'only' about 165 miles--then north to Horseshoe Bay to catch the ferry for the 90-minute ride across Georgia Strait to Nanaimo, at last. This necessarily kilometers-focused trip has become a bit of blur in retrospect. We're already confused and have to quiz each other on what happened which day and where were we then? But then I'm often confused without even leaving Roseville. :-).

25 October 2008


(written evening of Friday, October 24th)

First, happy birthday Mom!

We crossed the border uneventfully and quickly this morning, only three vehicles in line when we arrived.

We’re staying the night in Brandon, Manitoba at a motel called Barney’s. Given the current owner’s apparent Chinese or perhaps Korean ancestry, we guessed correctly he is not named Barney, but the previous owner was indeed ‘the’ Barney. Too bad, we would like to have met Barney because he appears to have an interesting sense of humor. Along with several colorfully worded advisories in our room, the motel owners also thoughtfully provided a comments sheet. One section is titled “When you checked into your room, was it clean?” The multiple choice answers include “A blind person could do a better job,” “It’s cleaner than the inside of my arteries,” and “This is so clean I’d like my spleen operation here.”

Earlier today we spent a couple hours in Winnipeg, just cruising around and then bravely (or so it felt for us middle-aged white people) venturing into a “mixed” neighborhood in search of ethnic food. We not so bravely settled on Asian and got two fabulous authentic dishes prepared and served by authentic Asians. I'd thought that Winnipeg might be different, but it seems to me every Canadian city I’ve visited, including now Winnipeg, is more diverse than every American city I’ve visited. In the Canadian cities that I’ve seen firsthand it’s tough to guess, based on an appearance-only, unscientific tally of folks on downtown sidewalks for example, just who is the majority “group.” I’d hope and expect that when everyone’s a minority, tolerance is endemic, but I don’t have enough experience here to know if that’s the case.

Modern day “Barney” has equipped our room with a microwave, so I believe we’ll be having leftovers for dinner, then checking out downtown Brandon. There’s something called a ‘stampede’ going on in Brandon this weekend; don’t know exactly what that is but I’ve cautioned Laurie to beware of swift-moving cows and the ‘pies’ left behind.

For a while yesterday I suspected that extreme eastern North Dakota must be the world’s leading source of landscape rock. For many, many miles about every third vehicle on I-29 was a truck hauling what looked like softball-sized and shaped stones. After noting some processing facilities surrounded by unbelievably humongous piles of “stones,” I at last remembered what northwest Minnesota (and hence northeast North Dakota) is known for besides hockey: sugar beets. Harvest evidently is in full swing.

Saturday, October 25th

We’re staying the night in Swift Current, Saskatchewan. Though the weather’s fine, the wind is whipping about 50-60 mph I’d say and has been most of the day. The locals assure us this is extraordinary. Good driving so far on the TransCanada highway. It’s four-lane with a 110 kph (about 68 mph) speed limit in Saskatchewan, up from 100 kph in Manitoba. Unlike the stellar U.S. interstate system, the TransCanada highway is not limited access, so there can be major at-grade crossroads and towns to pass through. These might be issues if there were any of either. Well, there are a few, but very few. The population density is almost imperceptibly above zero (right where I like it), and the vista here in what Canadians call The Prairies is beautiful: flat or gently rolling post-harvest wheat (or canola?) fields, round hay bales awaiting collection sprinkled evenly across vast meadows to the horizon, and of course lots of cattle. To Calgary tomorrow.

19 October 2008

Our Route from Roseville to Nanaimo

We plan tentatively to spend nights in Grand Forks, North Dakota; Brandon, Manitoba; Swift Current, Saskatchewan; Calgary, Alberta; Golden, British Columbia; and Merritt, British Columbia. The itinerary (constructed by Laurie), though not leisurely, has some slack built in to allow for fooling around in the Canadian Rockies, potential snow/ice, and my aversion to driving after dark, especially where moose, elk, and other large mammals roam.

16 October 2008

Thoughts Before Leaving

We depart by car on October 23rd for Nanaimo and a Vancouver Island winter! Our emotions are diverse and keen: excitement, confusion, a bit of anxiety--but mostly excitement. What a great time for us both to choose to have no job or earned income, eh? On the other hand, though I left a part-time job to enable this adventure, Laurie was between jobs anyway, and given ‘the state of things’ even she, despite her talents and connections, might find a job search futile for a while. So might as well have some fun. And secondarily I sure look forward to escaping the U.S. election cacophony’s crescendo and the country’s ubiquitously panic-stricken atmosphere. 

This “trial run” in Nanaimo, besides being a great adventure, should I hope produce several practical benefits related to our now years-long contemplation of whether to relocate to Nanaimo. We’ll experience the full effects of the Pacific Northwest’s relentlessly dreary winter weather. We’ll make more connections in Nanaimo and at the least get a better feel for the prospects for employment, get to know people who may become a future social group, and gauge the extent of anti-American sentiment J. We’ll get a much better sense of what it’s like to live in Nanaimo, as opposed to vacation in Nanaimo. Whether this will allow us to make a decision about moving, who knows.

One impact of this winter’s adventure I’m already feeling is something like “relocator’s regret.” Being away for this long, and moving a big step closer potentially to relocating to Nanaimo, brings to the fore cons about moving I normally repress.  I'd miss the company of our good, core group of friends in the Twin Cities. Get-togethers with some family elements could--if we don't resolve otherwise--become less frequent because of the greater complexity and cost of travel from Vancouver Island. I like Minnesota and the Twin Cities very much, and there's much I would miss. I made a similar, in some respects, move in 1991, relocating from Frederick, Maryland--a place where I also loved living--to Minneapolis, though I had no job and no connections in the Twin Cities. I had a fabulous group of friends in the D.C. area, and it was very difficult to leave. But I felt strongly, after a lot of reflection, that in the long run I’d better prosper in the Midwest. And while it was tough at the time, I’ve never had a single moment’s regret about that decision. So while letting our options percolate this winter, I'll try to stay cognizant that what feels easiest in the short term isn’t necessarily what’s best in the long term, and a mix of emotions--some unhappy--will accompany any complex, even rightly made decision. And hey, few decisions are irreversible or un-modifiable, right? That’s my self-talk to short-circuit a tendency to over-analyze.

Can’t believe it’ll be spring when we get back to Minnesota…feels like cheating somehow, the ice and snow will (probably) be gone by our early April return. I will miss the Minnesota winter too. The other seasons would not feel nearly so enjoyable if not for the stark contrast with winter, I think.