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Summer doesn’t officially end for a few days, but fall is quickly showing its muscle.  Shorter days, Canadian Geese flying in formation and finally after one of the driest summers — blessed rain !!  One of my favourite parts of autumn is the cool, crisp breeze that comes in off the ocean.  Wish I could bottle that fragrance up and sell it.

The summer months were jam packed and action filled.  Not as many motorcycle trips as we would have liked but it is hard to beat last year’s 2 1/2 month North American trek. We managed a few mini vacays traveling with friends and family and the bike will NOT go back into storage until the last day of September when the insurance expires for the season.  We live so far away from most of our family so it’s such an event when they come to visit us in Port McNeill.  My brother & cousin rode their Harleys across Canada and we were thrilled they carved out three nights to spend time with us.  Much laughing over a few cold drinks !!  With her new hip and so much more mobile than when I saw her in March, my Mom just flew home to Ontario after being here for 3 weeks.  We chatted.  We shopped.  We ate bad snacks.  And GG (great-grandma) got lots of quality time with Bowen.  My Mom’s cousin Judy and her friend John come up from Washington State for a mini family reunion while GG was here.  Their moms grew up in Saskatchewan and then one went east to Ontario and one went west to Vancouver and then on to Seattle.

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1) Trip to Hornby & Denman Islands with fellow bikers  2) My brother Dan and cousin Brian posing in front of the Whale Interpretive Centre at Telegraph Cove 3) Our daughter Megan, her husband Justin and their adorable son Bowen were all in a wedding party 4) My Mom & Bowen at our regular Friday night Legion dinner

I’ve been dragging my feet for two days now trying to decide which pictures encapsulated our summer.  Then realized I’ve used most of the best ones in previous posts or on Facebook.  So I started thinking in overall themes: people, flowers & north island scenery.

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1 & 2 taken at Shepherd’s Garden near Port McNeill.  3) Alert Bay Ecological Park and 4) The Community Garden at St. John Gualbert Church in Port McNeill

Thanks to Mackay Whale Watching for the unforgettable moments out in the Broughton Archipelago.  Twice in two weeks I was out on the Naiad jumping up and down with glee to see orca & humpback whales, dolphins, porpoises and sea lions.  Over almost 20 years I’m sure Chris and I have taken thousands of whale pictures.  The majority of them are little black dots or splashes of water on the surface.  Although enlarged and cropped this is by far the best shot of an orca in our collection.

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1) Orca spyhopping taken onboard Mackay Whale Watching vessel the Naiad a few weeks ago 2) smoky sunrise the result of forest fires in the Interior of BC 3) after the smoke cleared we went back to our normal morning view 4) one of the beautiful giants at the Alert Bay Ecological Reserve

It’s time to start getting the garden and yard ready for winter.  Chris and I are happy to get back to the gym this morning and start back on a much healthier eating plan after slacking off most of the summer.  So long carbs…hello lean protein and salads 😇 Chips & dip I will miss you *sigh*

Here’s a challenge for you.  Do more of what makes you happy.  What does that look like for you this autumn?  I’ve got a stack of books to read.  Information to add to the family tree on ancestry.ca.  Umpteen crafting projects to finish.  An online photography course to get through.  Happy Autumn 🍂🍁

Hugs from the beach…

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Many, many years ago we camped.  The kind of camping where you sleep on the ground.  With sleeping bags. In a tent.  No flush toilet or kitchen or electricity.  Loads of fun when you’re young.  I wouldn’t trade those happy memories for anything.  Like trying to pitch a tent in the dark.  Or me leaving the zipper open for raccoons to steal food.  My bff Yvonne just reminded me about that crazy trip when we were teenagers.  Now, with achy bones and having to get up multiple times in the night that kind of camping just doesn’t work anymore.  Our daughter & her husband spend most summer weekends camping.  Not wanting to be left out of a trip to Cluxewe Resort, Chris and I rented a trailer for a week.  A local bed & breakfast owner delivered her fully equipped trailer to the campsite for us.  Levelled it, pulled out the awning and had the hot water turned on and ready to go.  All the bedding, dishes and gear required for our home away from home.  Added perks like stereo, tv, microwave, heat & shower.  Wow camping sure has changed since our blow up mattresses and kerosene lanterns.

After putting away our clothing and food we immediately set up lawn chairs for our favourite part of the glamping program.  Sitting.  Cold beverage in hand and wearing my touristy straw hat during the day with arms & legs lathered in sunscreen and at night hoodie drawn tight and wrapped in a blanket with a cup of tea. Imagine me sitting still for minutes at a time…relaxing.

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This happy one-year-old couldn’t get enough of the outdoors.  Rain or shine.  By stroller or wagon Bowen happily traveled from one end of the property to the other every day.  Including umpteen visits to the park. There was so much to touch and pick up and put in his mouth: weeds, grass, rocks and dirt.  With friends and family visiting every day there was always someone to follow our curious boy on his expeditions.  Being so close to forest and reports of cougars in town made us a little more cautious than usual.

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We saw lots of familiar faces during the week.  Locals out for a walk, camping or visiting the cafe for a meal.  It may only be 10 minutes from home but Cluxewe is very popular with North Islanders.  We share the same coast but the scenery is different.  The Cluxewe River, estuary and ocean sit side by side with oodles of shore & water birds and lush green vegetation.  The beach being more exposed washes up all kinds of driftwood and huge clam shells as far as the eye can see.

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The nights did get a bit chilly but that’s what campfires are for — and look at my perfect s’more.  Thanks to Nate for the perfectly roasted marshmallow sandwiched in between two chocolate covered digestive cookies.  Sweet, sticky goodness.

Some of the stories around the fire had me laughing until I cried.  Don’t worry gang — what is said at Cluxewe, stays at Cluxewe.  The very best part of camping though is the food.  Megan and I carefully drafted up a menu ahead of time, shopped for all the ingredients and then feasted at every meal.  Burgers & potato salad, mac & cheese with Caesar salad and garlic bread, perogies & sausage.  This photo was taken on Saturday which was an appy dinner.  Visiting family and friends all contributed a dish and thanks to our camping neighbour Erin the stand out for me was deep fried halibut bites.

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Our next few trips away will be by motorcycle.  Next month we’re island hopping to Denman & Hornby.  And in August we’re looking forward to meeting up with my brother Dan and cousin Brian who are hopping on their Harley’s in Ontario for some iron butt riding to BC and back.

Hugs from the beach…

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For those who haven’t met me in person I smile.  A lot.  Ditto with laughing. Sometimes until I wheeze.  Best medicine EVER !!  My family have seen me laugh to extremes quite a few times.  Usually when I’m overtired and something hits my funny bone.  Highly embarrassing when it happens at an inappropriate time or place.   “Uh oh Mom’s gonna blow,” my daughter warns when she sees a laughing fit on the way.  And I’ve learned that trying to rein in the hilarity only makes it worse.  I once broke into a rash trying my best not to alarm shoppers in the greeting card aisle at the drugstore.  It wasn’t pretty.

This week I had so many reasons to smile.  One morning after a late leisurely breakfast at Tia’s Cafe with my daughter & grandson we walked the town centre to run errands.  Spring flowers at the Post Office are so cheerful even on the greyest & rainiest of days.   Daffodils are my absolute favourite.  Note to self:  plant some in our garden !!  These foot vase/planters at the drugstore stopped me in my tracks.  Whimsical, a tiny bit creepy and I’d like to ask the artist, why is the big toe curled up?  We browse through the gift section often.  This week there’s a batch of wooden signs using old records.  How retro !!  And a great way to use up that vinyl collecting dust in basements all over the world.

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Eleven months ago this little munchkin started charming us all.  On this particular day he was most interested in what Grandpa was doing outside on the ladder. We knew Grandpa was power washing winter grime from the vinyl siding but Bowen looked at it as a game of peekaboo.  “Where’s Grandpa?” “Where did he go?” “Oh there he is.”  I dare anyone to keep a straight face watching a baby process the world or when they bless you with a gap toothed grin.  Yesterday in Port Hardy Bowen carried on quite the conversation with an old fellow who was happy to speak the goo goo gaa gaa language babies understand.

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Waking up every morning my routine is simple.  Shuffle into the kitchen, turn the coffee pot on, and gaze out the window.  Time for my own weather forecast.  Today I’m guessing: scattered clouds, mostly sunshine, wind from the south and a high of 12 degrees.  We’ll need sunglasses or ball cap today to keep that glorious sunshine out of our eyes. That makes me smile.

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And on the agenda for today.  Baking large batches of banana chocolate chip muffins.  Homemade goodness that will go perfectly with afternoon tea.  With a view !!  One more reason to let my happiness shine through.

Hugs from the beach…

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New Year’s Eve without the headache?  Quite simple actually.  Stay home, drink tea and tune into CNN to see how long it takes Kathy Griffin to have Anderson Cooper giggling with embarrassment.  Less than one minute by the way.  Being three hours ahead of New York we didn’t have to force ourselves to stay up to midnight. Yup — that’s how we rolled this New Year’s Eve.

Year in review shows were a blur of conflicts & terrorism, celebrity deaths and scientific breakthroughs.  For me 2016 was made up of more highs than lows with lots of in betweens.  Cycle of life stuff.  One of the most amazing moments of my life was being part of Team Megan in the delivery room the day our grandson was born.  Our daughter was so brave and a marvel to behold from the first contractions to the moment we met the most beautiful baby in the world Bowen Michael.  I’ve gone almost cross-eyed staring at those pinchable chubby cheeks and soulful blue eyes.

Ticking off one of the biggest items from our bucket list Chris and I hopped on the Harley for the “big trip.”  See the many posts below 🙂 The whole year was broken into chunks of: planning for the trip, being on the trip and post trip.  Thankfully I blogged as we went because I couldn’t hazard a guess as to how many state lines we crossed or remember all the places we visited.  We have so many memorable moments like the impromptu bluegrass festival At Elmer’s General Store, the chef who came out to meet us when she heard we were going to blog about her homemade flapjack syrup or sharing a beer in a hotel parking lot with another motorcyclist after a torrential storm forced us off the road.

In my own “gone but not forgotten” tribute — 2016 was a sad year.  My Uncle Don Lane and then his daughter, my cousin Jennifer Lane Robinson both passed away. And who would have imagined at my age and a grandmother myself that I would be sharing the news that my 96-year-old Nana was gone.  Joan Mary Collings was the matriarch of five generations.  Celebrating her birthday in July we gathered for brunch and she reminded us of the importance of family.  Yes she lived a very long life and no it wasn’t a surprise when she died, but I felt out of sorts for a few days.  Mopey that my Nana was gone.  My last grandparent — the end of an era.  And then I smile when I think of how our daughter described her as “a real sassy molassy.”  A proper British Nana whose stern and no-nonsense manner put me on my best behaviour as a child but when I did some growing up I adored her independence and sense of humour.  She and I went for dinner occasionally when we both lived in the same city.  We would share our funny dating stories and she once tried to give my phone number to a good-looking waiter.  We were pen pals and I treasure all the letters that were signed “with fondest love Nana.”

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My last visit and hug with Nana in August

Resolutions for 2017? I’m thinking along the lines of eating healthier & trying to be more physically active.  My husband totally surprised me at Christmas with a gym bag full of work out gear, running shoes and sessions with a personal trainer.  The “transformation” starts on the 16th and I’ll let you know how that all works out.

Yesterday I got an email from myself that I’d totally forgotten about.  Futureme.org is a website where you write yourself a letter and they send it to you a year later.  Here’s the last paragraph and I still feel this way.  Happy New Year !!!

You have enough !!!! More than you ever dreamed of actually. Be grateful for the house on the beach, a girl cave for crafting, a pantry full of food, a car to get you where you want to go. And married to your bff for more than 30 years. A beautiful daughter happily married and now a wee one. JUST BE GRATEFUL. Pray more, be silly more, get outside and breathe fresh air more, get to the gym more and one more reminder WRITE MORE.

Love Me xoxoxo

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STUPID LEUKEMIA !!!  She was only 48-years-old. That’s the sanitized version of what I muttered when I read the Facebook post last week that my cousin passed away.

I’m the oldest child of the oldest child on my Dad’s side of the family.  He’s one of seven children.  And they all had kids and so on.  Five generations of us with my beautiful and feisty 96-year-old Nana the matriarch.

My cousin Jennifer was 8 years younger than me.  I remember her as a cute little blonde.  Younger sister to Stuart & Jamie.  Every year on Boxing Day the whole clan gathered for Boxing Day at my grandparents house for a big turkey dinner. When Grandpa passed away Jennifer’s parents took over hosting the party.  In their old school rec room we all had in our basements back then.

Because she was so much younger, we never really connected except for kid play at family parties or croquet in our grandparents garden.  I moved to the Northwest Territories in 1984.  Jen would have been 16-years-old. She was busy with high school and all things teenager. I was dealing with life away from home and a brand new relationship.

Back in the pre-Internet days we had to actually write letters to each other or spend big money to call long-distance.  I savoured letters full of family news & gossipy tidbits. Of course being so far away you usually give each other the short, sanitized version. The one where everyone is “fine” until births, weddings and tragedy make the family headlines.  The Ontario family are more involved in the daily fabric of each other’s lives.  I’m an outsider that blasts back in occasionally for a family fix.  I don’t always know the stories behind the stories.

Through the grapevine I learned Jennifer had grown up into Jen — a travel agent. And then the exciting news when she became Mrs. Jen Robinson. Not having children of her own she channeled huge maternal love towards her nieces & nephews.

I love this picture of Jen and her dad, my Uncle Don.  He was a man’s man with a loud booming voice, worked restoring classic cars with his sons and I know he adored his little girl.

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A few years ago I found Jen on Facebook.  We caught each other up in a few sentences. The “I’m fine” with slightly more meat.  Jen was managing five travel agencies and doing mostly corporate work.  She and her husband Gary had a comfortable weekend routine spending time with family.

My Dad was the one to tell me Jen had been diagnosed with leukemia.  She would have to undergo many rounds of chemo before a bone marrow transplant was possible.  The family rallied to provide rides, meals and whatever Jen & Gary needed.  She spent  Christmas in the hospital, missed her nephew’s wedding and spent more time in the hospital than at home.  Then this summer the shocking news that Jen was being sent home — no more treatments — bone marrow was no longer an option.

Anytime I private messaged Jen she always got back to me right away.  I, on the other hand am notorious for not always being so prompt with my replies.  August 9th my last message to her starts with “love you too Jen” and “yes I agree wee babies are cuddly.”  Half written, I never finished the conversation.  Thought I had but went on to something else and totally forgot.  I just realized it today when I looked up our conversations to see how long we’d been Facebook friends.  Made me so sad I hadn’t pressed the send button.

Keeping us all up to date Jen posted each trip to the hospital when she spiked a fever and then her joy to be home again.  The last heartbreaking post was Jen “feeling blessed” as she checked into hospice and sending her love to all.  Those last few pictures of Jen surrounded by family…still smiling.

She loved, she was loved.  To me Jen was an earth angel with the extraordinary gift of making everyone around her feel cherished and a little bit better about themselves.  A beloved daughter, sister, auntie, wife, friend, and cousin.  Now a shining star.

Rest well Jen — you will be missed !!

 

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Three days ago we woke up to thick fog — one of the last days of our amazing adventure.  We quickly packed up and hit the road before rush hour traffic got too busy.  Chris is comfortable with lower mainland highway driving so he easily navigated us from Hope, BC through Abbotsford, Surrey and finally Vancouver.

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We weren’t sure how busy ferry traffic would be — what an unexpected surprise to learn that we would be leaving in 30 minutes.  Not even enough time to leave the bike and go find a coffee.  No matter because riding a motorcycle means we’re always first on the boat. And first in line at the cafeteria, enjoying a full hot breakfast before the ferry even left the dock.

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Right after I said to Chris we always run into someone we know on the ferry I felt a tap on my shoulder.  Our friend Jennie Hopkins-Black was traveling home after 3 days in Vancouver.  We’ve known Jennie for years.  She ran our b&b for us a few times allowing us to get away in the summer.  This whole trip has been so special reconnecting with family and friends and meeting so many new people.

That’s Chris talking to a young fellow in the vehicle beside us with a brand new baby in his arms and a toddler in the car.  Sleep deprived but happy they’ve decided their family is complete.

Smelling the ocean air and and seeing Vancouver Island come into view was a great welcome back.  My excitement level went up just a tad 😀

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Thanks to my brother Dan and his family for the Chapters gift card they gave me for my birthday.  We stopped off in Nanaimo so I could add to my fall reading material.  That’s my bandito in front of the bike getting geared up for the next part of the trip.

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We stopped off at Crown Isle Golf Course in Courtenay to meet up with my Dad and Step-Mom for coffee and a catch up chat. My Dad’s big news was his first ever golf “hole in one.”  Congratulations Dad — you’re part of a very exclusive club !!

Finally on to Campbell River for the last night of our big trip.  Dinner & and overnighter with dear friends Jim & Laurie.  Chris and Jim were rookie RCMP members in Alberta in the late 70’s and they have always kept in touch.  Jim & Laurie are Megan’s godparents and a big part of our family.  Once again the guys made me laugh until I cry with their hilarious stories.  Jim could hardly tell the one story he was laughing so hard.
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Spending the night in Campbell River meant we had a very short ride Tuesday.  It poured rain so 2 1/2 hours was long enough.

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The trip is now officially over.  We’ve slept two nights in our own bed, opened up a stack of mail, unpacked the bike and are settling back into life back at home.

We were gone 74 days, traveled 19,052 kilometers right across Canada, down to the southern US and then west across the states back to BC.  What a ride !!

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Home sweet home. This was the view from our window last night.  It may have been raining but the rainbows were spectacular !!

The bike is insured until the end of December so I think we’ll get a bit more riding in this fall.  And we’re talking about a few short trips for next summer.  For now I’ll keep busy writing, crafting and spending time with our adorable grandson.

Thanks for coming along on the journey with us dear readers.  Stay tuned for the next chapter.

Life is good !!!

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Love & hugs from Port McNeill…

 

 

 

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After two weeks in Ontario we packed up the bike & trailer, hugged my Mom goodbye and started the trip home.  Granted, it’s a circuitous route that is taking us south for a a few days but we’ll veer west early next week.

We passed over the Welland Canal one last time before riding into Niagara Falls to cross the border into the U.S.  Another amazingly quick crossing.  Just a few questions about where we’re headed, how long we’ll be in the States and what we’re bringing with us.  South Carolina, then home, two weeks and pretzels.

One important piece of equipment on the bike is our GPS system.  After safely guiding us across Canada and back to Ontario our faithful companion Sassy stopped working yesterday.  Thanks to Clare’s Harley dealership in Niagara-on-the-Lake they moved us to the front of the service appointments line and installed a new GPS system that is bigger and better than her predecessor.

image.jpegWith the temperature at 88 degrees along with high humidity we were glad to have frozen water bottles and Gatorade on board today.  Dark clouds provided brief moments of shade and at one point we even put our rain coats on.  Five minutes later we had blue skies so pulled over one more time and couldn’t get the coats off quickly enough.  Ewwww it was like an instant sauna.  Grove City, Pennsylvania was the perfect place for lunch and our server  recommended one of their famous sandwiches.  I had the Pitts-Burger but it should be called the Behemoth.  Burger, fries, cheese & coleslaw between two slabs of bread.  Chris had to eat his with a knife & fork.  I decided to eat it with my hands and it wasn’t pretty !!

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Stopping at the Welcome Centre at the West Virginia border we reserved a room in Morgantown.  We were told it gets very busy with university students returning and Moms & Dads here to get them settled in.  We walked into our blissfully cool room and decided to stay indoors.  It’s so handy to order food online and have it delivered.  Pizza for dinner and cannelloni for dessert !! Tomorrow we’ll travel to the other end of West Virginia and one day closer to friends Gwen & Ron in Hartsville, SC.

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Love & hugs from the road…

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