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Shades of Autumn

Since arriving home from “the big trip” just over a month ago, I’ve been gently easing myself back into healthier eating and more walking.  Two and a half months sitting on the back of the motorcycle and all those restaurant meals came to a screeching halt.

Yesterday was one of my favourite kind of days.  Cool and crisp.  Overcast but no raincoat required.  Happy, happy, happy.  Donning my warm hoodie and throwing on my knapsack I pretty much ran out the door.  To be outside, sniffing that glorious sea perfume.  Having been gone all summer I felt like George in “It’s A Wonderful Life” when he’s running down the main street yelling at the top of his lungs.

Hello Port McNeill seawall !!!!!

Hello you wonderful old abandoned house !!!!!

Hello big monkey tree beside the harbour office !!!!!

That beautiful red bush catches my eye every time I drive down our road.  It’s gorgeous and just so….red.  And I love that yards & doorsteps are being decorated with pumpkins and scarecrows.  First we have Canadian Thanksgiving this weekend and then a very big deal for our little town HALLOWE’EN !!

And the doorway through a huge hedge has always reminded me of The Secret Garden.  The old manor was barged over from the mainland many years ago and was a b&b for 30 years.  Now it mostly sits empty.IMG_1684.JPG

While we were gallivanting across North America this summer, a new clock was erected in front of the marina.  A thank you to Gerry Furney, one of the longest serving mayors in Canada.  The clock chimes every 15 minutes and reminds me of my husband’s parents whose clock sang the very same song.

And there’s the old house I pass every time I walk downtown.  Once occupied by Olive Tunnicliffe who worked next door at the laundromat for many years.  Olive was what my daughter calls “a sassy molassy.”  Her bark was definitely worse than her bite!! Olive was a kind hearted little old lady who loved her family and friends, made great gingerbread men and knit a few million miles of yarn.  It’s sad nobody lives there now and with the broken front window I wonder what sorts of wildlife have found their way inside?

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Leaves are changing colour and carpeting yards all over town.  Another one of my favourite fall smells.  Earthy and rich !!  Soon we’ll be firing up the wood stove to keep the chill away.

I leave you with a sacred part of my walk along the seawall.  Memory benches where locals and visitors can rest for a bit and enjoy the incredible view.  This bench remembers a local woman — a wife/mother/daughter & friend and the family lovingly care for the plants and add seasonal touches.

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Wishing our Canadian family & friends a Happy Thanksgiving.  Turkey dinner is my favourite meal to make and my favourite to eat.  Thank goodness for stretchy pants !!

Blessings from the beach…

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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 !!

 

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…

 

 

 

Deja Vu

Another glorious day weather wise !!  We sure have run the gamut from near freezing temperatures in the mornings when we first left BC to 40 degrees Celsius in South Carolina.  Thankfully we didn’t have to deal with snow or hail although we did have to get off the road a few times when thunderstorms were imminent.

Today was a lovely trip down memory lane.  We’ve traveled these roads before and never get tired of the scenery.  Our breakfast stop was the Omega Restaurant in Grand Forks.  When we told our server we both wanted a Belgian waffle with strawberries and whipped cream she suggested we try the stuffed French toast. Just imagine 2 huge pieces of French toast with a layer of marscapone cheese in the middle mixed with strawberry compote & topped with whipped cream and slivered almonds.  Two empty plates again !!  I saw a sign posted on the wall that said “borscht & home made bread to go.”  Honey, I think maybe we need a vacation home in Grand Forks.

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Things I love and stop me if I’m repeating myself.  Actually I know I am and will do it anyway.  Clouds and old abandoned buildings both fascinate me.  Things I don’t love are aggressive drivers and vehicles with untethered items in the back — both of which we saw today and just too many times on this trip.

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Chris was looking forward to Highway 3 today.  It ranks way up high on the list of twisty roads in BC.  Being a Sunday and such nice weather we saw hundreds of bikers on the road.

We passed through Osoyoos, Keremeos & Princeton.  Vineyards, fruit orchards and so many stores selling fresh everything.  Sadly we just don’t have enough room in the trailer for cases of peaches or fresh corn.

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Doesn’t matter how many km we travel, how tired we are or how bad my helmet head is, we are enjoying this incredible journey.  A little sad that it’s coming to an end but we’ll have all the memories to keep us busy over the winter while we plan the next adventure.

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One of my favourite pictures from today.  Big sky, mountains and water.

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Tonight we’re in Hope BC in a nice little motel we’ve stayed before.  The bonus is the Greek restaurant right next door.  I see chicken souvlaki in my future !!

Tomorrow we’ll be getting on the ferry back to Vancouver Island.  Two and a half months away and only one more night before we’re home again.

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Love & hugs from Hope, BC

 

Passports Please

A kool and krisp morning in Kalispell !!  It’s a given now that all our cold weather gear is required for the first few hours of riding.

I’m not sure exactly where we were when we started smelling smoke and the sky got hazy. There is fire activity right now in Montana, Idaho & Washington. And the word is there is a campfire ban back in Port McNeill.

Our breakfast stop this morning was Libby, Montana, “City of Eagles.”  The extra wide main road is framed by beautiful hanging baskets and one shop caught my eye with a poster about one of the presidential candidates.image.jpeg

When Chris asked the gas station attendant for a recommendation for breakfast there was no hesitation — Libby Cafe !!

From the young lady who seated us we found out Libby once relied on logging and mining but that’s all gone now.  Tourism is playing a bigger role in the economy.  A senior in high school this lively teen will have her welding ticket by the time she graduates and has a job waiting for her in Alaska.

When we placed our order – eggs Benny for Chris, Denver omelet for me – our server asked if we’d ever had a huckleberry flapjack?  When we replied no we haven’t she said we should at least try one since the cafe is well known for them.  She brought us one to try and it was DELICIOUS !!  A huckleberry flapjack with butter & homemade huckleberry syrup on top was a most amazing appetizer !! Chit chatting back and forth we learned our server lived in Oregon working a high pressure job and is happy to live on two acres just outside Libby raising chickens & turkeys and soon some goats.

It was great to meet the chef and thank her for making our breakfast.  One of the favourite parts of this trip is connecting with people.  Finding out what keeps them busy and why they choose to call a certain place home.

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With very full bellies we headed north.

It happened so fast I missed the welcome sign but we spent about an hour in Idaho heading to the border crossing.  One more state to mark on the map of where we’ve been this summer.

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This was the second time we crossed the border back into Canada on this trip.  The Porthill, Idaho crossing is tiny with no wait time.  And in the “it’s a small world” department the border agent knew exactly where Port McNeill is because he worked there years ago.  We answered a few questions and badda bing badda boom we were back in British Columbia.
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It may have just been my imagination but once we crossed the border back into BC the temperature got cooler !!  The skies darkened and we actually got a few spits of rain. Tonight we’re tucked into our very comfortable motel room in Trail, BC.  The last time change puts us back into the Pacific Time Zone.  Somehow I’ll try to stay awake until at least 9pm 😀

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Tomorrow will be a long day because we want to get all the way to Hope which is north east of Vancouver.  The plan is to be home on Tuesday.  Today a friend texted me we’ll be suffering from traveller’s hangover and will have to get used to making our beds and making our own meals.

We’ll miss the spontaneity of life on the road — we’re already talking about next year’s trip.

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Love & hugs from Trail…

Mountains of Montana

The date is August 26th.  The reason I know that is because I just looked it up. Being away from home for so long Chris and I quite often ask each other what the date is or what day of the week it is.  And when we closed the b&b I stopped wearing a watch.  Yes folks that’s retirement !!

We spent another day enjoying the spectacular scenery in Montana.  Mountains & trains were the theme today.  It’s the first time I’ve ever seen a wildlife crossing over the highway.  Would have been even better if a herd of bison was crossing !!

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It was much warmer today so I didn’t have to worry about frostbite when taking my gloves off to manage the camera. Obviously I was back to cloud gazing – one of my favourite pastimes.  And before you give us a hard time about the snake sign please know we exercised due diligence.  We didn’t hear rattling noises in the grass and we watched other people take pictures before we did.  And no Mom I would not jump off a cliff if everyone else did.

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Montana is definitely on the list of places to visit again and if we ever win the lottery I know Chris would be happy to have a big acreage here !!

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We met Catfish and Angel Face at the Harley dealer in Kalispell this afternoon. Catfish is a member of a motorcycle club called Sons of God – New Jerusalem. They have chapters in 50 states and they minister to OMG’s (outlaw motorcycle gangs).  A down to earth couple who love to ride and are spreading God’s word.

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Tomorrow we’ll be crossing the border back into BC.  We’ve gathered all our receipts together and realize we’ve spent as much on bike repairs as Harley clothing & souvenirs.  It will take us a few days to travel back to the island.  Geezer Tour 2016 is coming to an end.

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Love & hugs from Kalispell

 

All bundled up

Oh my the air was brisk this morning. It’s the first time on this trip that Chris had to add heated vest, leather jacket and winter gloves to his biking gear.  I added an extra neck covering and pulled it up over my ears for some extra warmth.

One of our stops this morning was the gas station in Reed Point, Montana. Seemingly one of the only business that’s open.  The cashier told us the population of the tiny town is 199 but only 100 of those are year round residents.  Sadly the businesses on the tiny Main Street have all shut down giving downtown the deserted look.  The only thing missing was a tumbleweed blowing down the street. It made me happy to see they still have a library.

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Our breakfast stop this morning was Livingston.  We drove up and down the main street until the retro sign at Northern Pacific Beanery caught my eye.  We lucked out again finding an awesome diner in a converted train station alongside an active railway line.  There was train memorabilia on the walls and they even sell conductor hats.  I had the daily special of eggs, bacon, hash browns and biscuits with gravy. OH MY GOSH how have I lived for 56 years without having eaten this fantastic food.  Flaky homemade biscuits smothered in sausage gravy.  Seriously there was not one single crumb left on my plate.

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Same as yesterday it was too cold to take many pictures from the back of the motorcycle but from this shot you can tell we’re heading into the American Rockies.  Breathtaking vistas and ranches that go on for miles.

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Tonight we’re in Butte Montana once known as “the richest hill on earth.”  Coming into the city we could tell that there’s been serious mining activity from the visible scars to the land. Gold & quartz have all been mined here and driving through the “uptown” it’s apparent the city was much bigger at one time.  Once a population of over 100,000 Butte now is home to 30,000 people.  It’s encouraging to see some of the beautiful old brick buildings being preserved and rejuvenated.

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We toured both”uptown” and “downtown” Butte trying to find a mom and pop motel but the motels we did find looked a bit sketchy.  Back to our dependable Best Western.

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Tomorrow we’re aiming for Kalispell Montana which will be our last night in this huge state.

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Love & hugs from Butte…