Tag Archives: Vancouver

Preparation and Liftoff

We spent the first 2 weeks of January getting ready to depart.  Actually, we scrambled to complete what we needed to while making time to spend with family and friends.  Why is it that regardless of the amount of time we have to prepare for a journey, the last few weeks are always crazy?  Why do we always leave exhausted?

We outfitted our motorhome with the essentials, working off an inventory of the S&M Motel that we compiled before leaving Europe.  Diane bought those items that she could from charity stores (pots, utensils, cups, etc.)  We retrieved what we could from our storage locker, but were restricted to items in the first 10 feet due an impenetrable maze of interlocking furniture and persistent wet weather.  We frequented dollar stores to find storage containers, wine glasses, and other odds and ends.  We bought one set of sheets and a comforter from our niece Dara’s shop.

We loaded our motorhome in the driveway of Diane’s brother Wayne’s house, where we had stayed during our intermission back in Canada (in the house, not in the driveway).

RV that appears to be deep in the snow

Snowed in!

White RV in a driveway with snow on the ground

It’s not as deep as it looks!

Basically, we tried to get the essentials before leaving home, but left the non-critical and more expensive items to acquire in the United States along the way, hopefully at a lower cost.

We had planned to leave on January 14th, but stayed an extra day to support a friend.  We had our last early morning coffee with our sister-in-law Tania, and began our final packing and preparations.  We wanted to get on the road as early as possible, but as usual, things were taking longer than planned.  We switched from careful packing to a stuff-and-go strategy.  I really didn’t want to still be there when Tania got home from work!  We finally got going around 2:30 PM and went first to our storage locker to drop some things off, then to our house to pick up some mail, and finally to a bike store in Langley to buy a cover for the bikes on our rear bike rack.  It turned out that in order to install the cover we had to remove both the bikes and the rack.  And so it was that I found myself kneeling in a parking lot at 5 PM in the dark under a light drizzle, wondering if we’d ever get on the road.

With the dark gray bike cover on, we found that our license plate and tail lights were completely hidden.  We couldn’t do anything about this safety hazard (and guaranteed ticket generator) at the time, but apparently we thought that yelling at each other in the parking lot might help.  We did drive to The Unique World of Princess Auto to buy a reflective safety triangle, similar to what was on the back of the S&M Motel, then I went back in to the store to buy some duct tape to attach it.  I mistakenly bought camouflage duct tape, and the irony of attaching a high-visibility reflector with camouflage tape was not lost on me.

At 7 PM we crossed the border into the United States.  I thought there was a good chance we’d be stopped there because our license plate and tail lights weren’t visible.  Fortunately the cameras at the border that read license plates are at the front.  We crossed successfully, and drove south on I-5 for a couple of hours, stopping at the Walmart in Lynnwood where I’d stayed a couple of weeks earlier.  It was late, and our RV was still winterized, so we went out for dinner to the 13th Avenue Pub & Eatery for our first greasy, delicious American meal (Philly cheese steaks and beer!)

‘God’s Waiting Room’

We recently returned from a trip to Arizona.  Our main goal was to visit family, Canadian ‘snowbirds’ who spend part of the winter in this warm southern state situated between California and Texas on the Mexican border.  It was our first visit to Arizona, and we’d heard a lot about it.  It is a popular place for Canadians to visit during the winter when the average temperature there are 25 to 45°C warmer than in Canada.  Additionally, Arizona is dry (mostly desert), and we had rain only one time (at night) during the 3 weeks that we were there!

We drove from Vancouver, British Columbia to Phoenix, Arizona in 2 long days (13 hours of driving each day).  We’d recommend making the trip in 3 or 4 days instead, which makes it much more civilized.

We spent our time in the Phoenix area, including two of its surrounding communities (Scottsdale and Apache Junction).  Although this region is mostly flat desert, small rocky hills dot the landscape, making for good walking and hiking.  We hiked over Pinnacle Peak three times during our visit, a great fitness walk taking about an hour.  It’s not as tough as the Grouse Grind (a popular fitness hike near Vancouver), but equally popular and with all ages of people.

Pinacle Peak with Saguaro catus in the foreground

Pinnacle Peak with Saguaro Catus

We also did some mountain biking in McDowell Mountain Regional Park.  The terrain is generally flat (at least when compared to British Columbia mountain biking terrain), but it does have small variations including rocky rises and sandy washes.  It’s important to stick to the trails to protect the desert and one’s bike tires, which don’t last long otherwise due to the cactus needles that litter the ground.  Most mountain bikers in Arizona ride with tubeless tires that contain a gel that makes them self-healing to generally avoid (or minimize) this challenge.

While in Arizona, we attended an NHL hockey game.  The Phoenix Coyotes were hosting the Vancouver Canucks at their (LINK Jobing.com) arena.  Aren’t these corporately sponsored arena names inspiring?  It appears that the strategy is working though, as I’ve just called attention to their brand, and I bet that at least one of you is going to look it up to see what they do.  I did.

Diane and I arrived 5 hours before the 7 PM game time, which is a bit too early, even for Canadians, but we were not the first Canuck fans there.  An added benefit of arriving early was that we got to park in the media parking lot for free, although there seemed to be plenty of other free parking at the Arizona Cardinals’ University of Phoenix football stadium across the street.  We settled down at a western restaurant and bar in the Glendale Entertainment District just outside the arena to enjoy some BBQ ribs and beverages.  It was great that even in middle of ‘winter’ we could sit outside with just a light jacket on.

Canucks fans with blue hair in their seats at the game

Canucks fans with glow-in-the-dark blue hair!

The crowd seemed to contain far more Canuck fans than Coyote supporters.  It was a sea of blue and white Canucks’ jerseys everywhere.  And not just snowbirds, but all ages of Canuck fans, some of who may even have traveled down just for this game.  Unfortunately Vancouver lost in an overtime shootout, but it was still a great evening.

Patrick and Diane in their seats at the game

Enjoying the game!

While in Arizona we also visited Diane’s aunt and uncle and my cousin and his wife, both of whom have places in mobile home parks (aka ‘trailer parks’).  These are extremely popular with snowbirds as they provide reasonably priced accommodation with low maintenance in an active community of like-minded seniors.  The mobile homes are single (about 400 sq. feet) or double wide, depending on lot sizes and park regulations, and the newest ones are rather nice homes, indistinguishable from the interior or exterior from something built in-situ.

New park model home, beige with porch and van in driveway

A new ‘Park Model’

They are located on palm-lined streets in gated communities that offer a smorgasbord of activities for seniors.  Diane’s uncle Ernie plays on 2 softball teams and Patrick’s cousin Jeff golfs several times a week.  Some residents (and guests!) enjoy hiking, beach volleyball, or driving dune buggies and quads in the desert.  Each day there are literally 50 or more organized activities to partake in – tennis, pickle ball, and shuffleboard leagues, a batting cage and driving range, water aerobics, pottery, ceramics, lapidary, lots of card playing clubs, and many more.  There are also many informal activities like a library and several pools and hot tubs.

Most importantly, trailer parks seem to provide a great social environment for seniors.  There are people walking or cycling around the park constantly, resulting in conversations or informal visits from friends perhaps 5 or more times a day.  You always need to keep the kettle on.  It’s really tough to get any work done with so much visiting going on.  There is a happy hour at someone’s home almost every night.  In addition, there are dances and parties a couple of nights a week.  Once each season (which runs from October to March), the people from each state or province arrange their own party (grouping together if they don’t have the numbers, e.g. Western Canada), and there most streets in the park also arrange a block party.

A unique social phenomenon that I observed is that of ‘bobbing’.  Each afternoon, many seniors drive over to a nearby pool in their golf carts, the preferred form of transport in the parks.  They don visor and sun glasses and sit on pool noodles (the long foamy things) while bobbing in a circle to enjoy hours of conversation.  People arrive as singles or as couples, and everyone seems to be welcome.  They beat the heat of the afternoon while spending quality time with others!

Thank-you very much to the family and friends who hosted us during our visit.  We enjoyed our trip to Arizona immensely.  A great place for a winter getaway!

The Intermezzo

Our first trip to Europe last fall was a great success.  We travelled by motorhome through Austria, Germany, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, Croatia, Italy, France, Spain, little Andorra, and even smaller Gibraltar.  The map below shows our approximate route for Europe Phase 1.

Map of Europe marked with red lines showing route during Europe Phase 1

Europe Phase 1 Route

My musings about this period are available in the Archives from September 2011 to December 2011 (remember that to read them chronologically, you need to read them from the bottom up).

We returned home to Vancouver just before Christmas.  It was great to be with friends and family for the holidays, and to get caught up on the many things that needed to be done.  We left Europe with a to-do list of 120 items and battled it down to 12 items before we departed.  I never understood why retired people claimed they were so busy, but there appears to be something to it!

Because our home is rented, we were graciously hosted by our friends Werner and Henny for most of our time in Canada.  We did take a short trip down to Arizona to visit family (read about it in an upcoming blog) and to escape the rain.  We also ‘house sat’ for a couple of weeks for our friends Joanie and Henry who were also traveling.

We had previously decided to stay in Vancouver until the wedding of our niece Bailey and her husband Keenan.  It was a small and thoroughly enjoyable wedding and provided us a great last-minute opportunity to see Diane’s family before we departed.

Lift Off!

Six months of planning, and the reality of what we are about to do is just setting in…

We’re currently sitting at Gate 64 at Vancouver International Airport. Our flight to London leaves in 30 minutes! After an exhausting month of getting ready, we’re really about to do this.

After 2 going away parties, and seveal teary goodbyes, we’re leaving.

Diane, her final Starbucks for awhile in hand, is coping well. She’s wondering when she has to start ratoining toilet paper. Every trip to the bathroom, she’s wondering whether she should be taking some of this with her.

We’re already getting special treatment. The flight attendants paged us, to find out where our checked baggage is, but we don’t have any! More on that later.

Anyhow, they’re calling our flight, so our next update will be from jolly old England.

Patrick and Diane

Here’s a picture taken at the airport by our friends Werner, Henny, and their daughter Janis, who kindly volunteered to take us to the airport.