Friday, November 24, 2006

My previously traditional day after Thanksgiving involves the whole Black Friday day of early morning shopping. This tradition started when my sister Sarah said that it sounded like fun, and we should try it so that we wouldn't blindly be calling people ridiculous for getting up and rushing department store doors for early bird sales.

Maybe we should've known we'd be hooked. We found a lot of great deals that first year--free gifts and samples and amazing sales. We got up at 5 or 5:30 and drove to Franklin Park Mall, a 40 minute drive from Pemberville (where we lived). We hadn't had our morning coffee, and so after hitting Kohl's (spending 20-25 minutes in line), we found ourselves in front of Barnes & Noble, because the mall wasn't opening till later, but Barnes & Noble was open, and so was the cafe. That coffee may have been the only reason we survived the morning.

And we only did stay out till 11 or so. We had another family Thanksgiving--with Mom's side of the family this time--waiting for us that afternoon, and we were beat.

In the coming years, we would get up earlier (and earlier). Barnes & Noble wouldn't be open in those still-dark hours, but the mall would, and though there wasn't coffee till the kiosks and the one coffeeshop opened, there were three department stores to rush through while we waited for the rest of the mall catch up with the early risers. I think the customer service actually got worse (not that you can expect great customer service on Black Friday). My cousin Brandi started coming out with us in the wee hours. Sarah moved to another state, where she continued the tradition of early morning shopping.

For the first Black Friday without Sarah, I called her on her cell (she'd informed us that she'd be hitting the mall soon). She was in Kohl's in Chapel Hill, and we'd just left Kohl's in Toledo. But it was too busy to keep trying to talk on the phone, a fact that disappointed me a little. (This was before walking around with headsets glued to the side of your head was trendy.)

In Canada, there is no Black Friday. Thanksgiving is before Halloween. I had to phone my family on Thanksgiving, like Sarah had been for years, to say hello and that I missed them. I didn't get to partake of the annual feast because neither Roger nor I had the energy (nor the patience) for that kind of kitchen intensity. Brandi said she wasn't going shopping in the morning without me because it wouldn't be the same.

And today, I felt all out of sorts because I knew I was missing the Black Friday shopping and two Thanksgiving feasts with family I dearly love. I suppose it had to happen sometime--everything has changed in the last couple years. This year, half of my cousins on my mom's side of the family weren't going to be joining the extended family feast because they either had to work, or, like me, they were just too far away, and we only get to pick one holiday to be there for. At least we all pick the same holiday and I can look forward to seeing everyone at Christmas, eh?

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Road Trip, Part 1

The following two entries are full of pictures from the road trip Roger and I took to Edmonton, Alberta, in July. There are no pictures, unfortunately, of the afternoon we spent in Edmonton, having lunch at a wonderful Vietnamese restaurant, spending time at a stationery store (pens and paper and cards, oh my!), talking to the new owner of a 1986 VW Westfalia, picking out fabulous truffles from a store Roger was determined to take me to.

On the first day of our trip, we were stuck in a traffic kerfuffle for four hours (in the hot, hot sun) that was mostly caused by drivers rubbernecking an accident that was nearly cleaned up by the time we passed it. We had a supply of bottled water with us, and because traffic was often at a near-standstill, we decided to start passing water to people in the next lane if they looked hot and/or aggravated. Most people turned us down, but three or four people gratefully accepted a bottle. One guy called, "Are you serious?" when I gestured that we'd pass him a water, and when our windows aligned again a few minutes after he'd taken the water, he told me that I was the nicest person in the world.

We stopped to eat one night at Theos, a Greek restaurant Roger had been to once and had told me about more than once. The oysters melted in our mouths. Actually, after the whole meal was over, we rather thought that if we could go back and do it again, we would've had another order of the oysters and each made it a meal, and picked a different appetizer.

And those are just a few of the stories.

I can't forget to mention that we did the whole road trip in Roger's convertible. Imagine that--my first trip through the Rockies and no car roof to obstruct my view. (Roger says it's every man's dream to drive through the Rockies with his love in a convertible.)

This is a view from the ferry to Egmont on our first day off.

These are coast mountains and later, there will be the Rockies, both gorgeous.

I was surprised by the amount of snow on many of the mountains.

And I love the way the clouds cast shadows on the mountainsides.

This is the Summerhill Winery in Kelowna (in the Okanagan Valley). Lake Okanagan allegedly houses a sea monster called Ogopogo.

Roger used to work at Summerhill tending the irrigation, planting grapes, building arbors. While he was there he got to pick grapes for an ice wine crush in the middle of a freezing night.

The vineyards, the lake... (yes, it was that blue)

Roger and I, standing on the deck outside the Summerhill shop. (This picture was taken before Roger cut his hair.)

May I suggest that if you are wine lovers, touring the Okanagan wine region might be a vacation you'd like to take. Stunning scenery, lots of wineries. In the middle of summer, you couldn't go wrong.

This is Banff, a city in the oldest national park in Canada. Very touristy--lots of shops, lots of people all year round. Roger and I spent a short rainstorm browsing through a bookstore. Very pretty scenery.

This is Cows, a famous ice cream shop. This is the only Canadian Cows shop other than the original shop in Charlottetown. You will not find Cows in the states. (Roger thinks you may find one in Japan, though.)

Yummy, yummy ice cream.

Roger's friend Jon lives just outside Edmonton. Jon and Lisa invited us to stay a few nights with their family. This double rainbow showed up outside Jon and Lisa's place, shortly after we arrived to settle in for our stay. Their kids--the three of four who were home--were amazed when they spotted the second, lighter rainbow over the bold one.
While we were visiting Jon's family, we took a walk to a "town" that has historically accurate displays in the buildings--a milliner's shop, a cobbler, a schoolhouse, a jail--and as you go through the town, the time period changes so that you end at a 1920's carnival with five or six games. This is Roger showing off. He got the little slider to the He-Man distinction, which was about 3/4 of the way up.

They had a neat old steam engine and genuine old passenger cars--how uncomfortable for a long trip!--with the bunks overhead that folded down. Jon's kids wanted to wave at the engineers as the train went by, so Jon hoisted his sons onto his shoulders (they're 2 and 4) and Roger gave Jon's second oldest daughter a lift. (She developed a one-day crush on Roger at this point.)

Look at the striations on this mountain--horizontal on one side and vertical on the other. What on earth caused that?

The lakes in Banff and Jasper were all amazing shades of blue-green.

Shadows on the mountains...

This is one of the bigger waterfalls we saw in the mountains.

We climbed down to the river half a mile or so down the road from where this was taken. It was an attempt at panning for gold. On the riverbank there were signs of a recent bear visit--broken and chewed branches of a berry bush.

These were the clouds that ushered us out of Jasper...

Some of the mountains are just covered in green...

and others are pretty bare...

See where all the snow drains when it melts?

More interesting striations... (This was taken from Jasper, another Canadian national park.)

While we were eating lunch at the only restaurant at Long Beach, there was this guy sitting out on the rock just below, either reading or witing. We think reading, because writing would have been very difficult with the breeze.

What he could see from that rock...

What remains after a forest fire as viewed from Highway 5.

Burned trees, closer....
Good morning. My next story: the van.

Roger used to have a '68 camper van that he converted to a Westfalia pop-top himself. (He often says he wouldn't do that again.) He called it the Tin Can Tourist; that's a picture of his van to the right. He loved this thing; he enjoyed learning how to take it apart and fix it himself. Even the van's lack of heat is remembered fondly. This van somehow (I forget all the details) ended up broken down on a highway in the US because his ex-girlfriend hired someone to drive the van to Atlanta, and he never checked the oil, and ditched it on the side of the road. Roger was none too happy when he learned his beloved van had been lost so carelessly. And he's been dreaming about owning another one ever since.

I hadn't really considered VW vans prior to Roger's coming into my life. I don't even remember seeing them in movies, let alone on the road. I probably never saw/noticed them on the roads for two reasons: on roadtrips my nose was always in a book unless I was driving and old VW vans don't hold up as well in Midwest winters as they do in saltless winter areas. There are, however, a surprising number of old VW vans being auctioned on Ebay from Michigan.

We looked at the vans listed on Ebay for a very long time. Not the Eurovans. Roger thinks they look/are too scrunched to be as good as the old camper vans. There were a few he was very interested in. I, having had no experience with these vans, had no opinion other than that I didn't care to remodel one; I preferred to buy one that was already all there, or almost all there. (An amazing number of these vans have been gutted, mostly by people selling the parts to people who bought gutted vans.)

One magical day, there was a van being sold from Oregon. Diesel. Perfect condition. But we couldn't figure out how to pay for it and then import it, so we had to let it go.

And then, a month and a half later, Roger picked up a copy of Auto Trader and low and behold, there was a turbo diesel 1989 VW Westfalia in Victoria. Turns out, it was imported by a German family who had gone to Germany to visit family and learned that it was going to be cheaper for them to buy this vehicle used than to rent a vehicle for the six or eight weeks they were going to be there. The plan was to sell it again when they were ready to leave, but they loved the van so much that they decided to go through the hassles of importing it to Canada. (The picture shows the Westfalia cabinetry. Hidden is a sink, a fridge, and two propane burners.)

The German family turned out to be quite a piece of work. There were some horrible moments after we had bought the van. One of the bank drafts we had paid for the van with had been wrongly imprinted with $100 even though the handwritten portion said $1000. They tracked us down somehow in the city (or maybe they really did just happen to drive by us) while we were looking for a Sears, and made a big deal about not believing that any of the drafts were any good. Roger offered to exchange the wrongly imprinted draft with cash (we had stopped in a bank parking lot, and though the bank was closed because it was a holiday, there was an ATM).

The sale had already been completed--the registration and insurance was all in Roger's name. Anyone else might not have tried so hard to assuage their fears (really, we think it may have been more like seller's remorse--the only reason they were selling it was because the wife wanted an automatic). Yes, just about anyone else around here would have told them to go to hell. That's not what we did. What we did was agree to let the van sit on their lawn until the next morning when they cleared the bank drafts at the bank. We did make them drive us around, since we'd already spent far too much on cabs out to their suburb to look at the van.

This is a picture of the poptop. With the poptop up, we gain another bed, so the van can sleep, as Roger says, four people who are getting along, or two people who are fighting.

Long and short, the van is ours now, no questions. We try to laugh about the inconveniences the sellers brought about. We had intended to leave the city first thing in the morning, but because we had to wait for the bank to open, we didn't leave until that afternoon, and we just barely made the last ferry back to Powell River--we were literally the last vehicle on. We hope that their bad karma didn't rub off on the van--VW vans are, after all, the sort of vehicle that picks up on karmic waves.

This would have been a nice van to have for the road trip to Edmonton. (I haven't blogged that yet--it'll be mostly pictures.) Roger had brought along a tent, but it got cold at night and I'm a wimp who hasn't been camping since Girl Scouts. Fortunately, this camper van has a thermostat that you can set at night to keep the inside cozy. Keeping it warm all night will take less than a liter of diesel. (And yes, she gets great mileage.)

Gee, this is going to be fun.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

It's been a while, hasn't it? I have four or five blog drafts that I just never published because I never got the pictures attached. I'm here tonight to remedy (at least in part) that issue.

Let's start with the most recent story: Little Red Riding Hood/Brenda/Princess, the esacpe artist Shetland Sheepdog.

Roger and I were getting into our van (that's a story I'll tell later--remember, I'm going backwards here) after dinner out, and we noticed this little dog moving at a pretty good clip across the parking lot. We decided to follow her, to see if we could find a collar or other indication that she had a home. I got out of the van when she stopped by the sports bar. I started talking to her--you know how you do with animals you don't know and think might be inclined to react violently to your approach. At first, I thought she was going to come to me--she took a few steps in my direction. Then she decided not to, and turned in the other direction: up the steps to the sport bar deck.

She must know the territory pretty well; she knew there was a gate at the other end of the deck. Unfortunately, she didn't know that they'd closed it for the night. She lay down and started trembling, awaiting her fate at our hands. By this time, Roger was with me, reaching down to check for that identification. He found a tattoo in her ear.

We took her home with us, where we set her up in the kitchen in the big box the grill came in. We gave her a small dish of rice and a bowl of water and turned on the radio for her, then we called a few animal tattoo registration places and left the tattoo info and our phone number. At the urging of the answering service for a local vet's office, I called the local animal rescue group (which Roger wasn't thrilled with because the group actually has a reputation for being more of a pain in the ass than helpful). As we made these phone calls, we would wander into the kitchen to look at the dog and croon to her about what a stinky dog she was and how good she was being (she hadn't made a sound or had a fit or an escape attempt yet) and how she was making our little cottage stinky, too, and how for such a little, albeit fluffy, critter, she was a pretty potent presence. I don't know what she rolled in, or what animal it came from, but I imagine that her smell helped her stay alive. I began telling her she smelled like a bear.

Roger called some Sheltie breeders in the province to see if they could help us track down the breeder, and hence the owner. Our first return call was Judy. She told us that she'd be happy to look up the breeder's number in her register of breeders, but that the tattoo number in the ear wasn't the breeder number, so we had to look on the insides of her legs. Smart dog that she was, she knew that since she was outnumbered and stuck in the box her best option was to behave, so she let us roll her over. We saw that she was indeed a she, and a spayed she at that. We clipped away the matted fur from the tattoo Roger found on her belly, and tried to read the six numbers/letters there. One of them had been tattooed over her nipple, it looked like, so we weren't sure whether it was a 1, 7, or 9.

When the animal rescue group woman called fifteen minutes later, she was confused and astounded when Roger told her we were already well on our way to tracking down the breeder and owner. (I think she thought he was lying just so that he wouldn't have to deal with her--she must know her reputation.)

We took the dog for a walk before we went to bed, thinking that she would probably like to relieve herself now that she'd settled down. (We were both impressed that she hadn't done so while we were carrying her.) It was a crisp night, clear and starry. Not that the dog noticed that. What she noticed were the cars and people that went by (she hid by crouching down) and the big, loud dog that lives a few houses down the street. We got all the way to the end of the street, to the parking lot just before the park and campground, before she tried to escape. We heard the rushing of one of the streams that empties into the ocean. We think that's what set her off. She turned into the parking lot, toward the sound of the water, and when she realized she was still on the harness Roger had fashioned for her out of strips of an old tee shirt, so she turned around and attacked the leash. Roger, being used to much bigger dogs, simply took hold of her behind the neck and pinned her down, eventually forcing her to relinquish her hold on the harness (she had, in a few short seconds, managed to bite through part of the leash). We re-secured the harness and took her home again.

Roger and I both thought it likely that the dog was actually the pet of people who had vacationed on the beach during the summer, and who had probably had to leave without her. We envisioned being able to reunite this dog with her family, who had probably given her up for dead. We have a number of cougars and black bears here, after all. Our theory of the dog belonging to a visiting family was supported by the identification of both the breeder and the ear tattooist (identified by a local vet's office as a Victoria animal hospital). Judy called us back to tell us that she didn't want to tell the dog's breeder that she had located one of her dogs, because the breeder of the dog was known to be an irresponsible one. Eventually, though, she called the dog's breeder and found out that the dog's name had been Little Red Riding Hood, but the owner had lost the receipt of sale and couldn't recall the buyer. Roger immediately took to calling the dog Red. Stinky Red.

Roger went out to run some errands, including picking up some shampoo for the dog. While he was out, the animal rescue lady called again. She felt remiss about having taken so long to return my phone call the night before, and in Roger's insistance that we were well on our way to finding the owner, she hadn't mentioned that a local realtor had reported a Sheltie missing in June of 2005. There had been reports of people seeing the dog ever since, and once someone had caught her, but she was a quick and determined dog. The animal rescue lady was amazed that we'd kept a hold of her. And still, she was confused as to how Roger could figure out how to find the breeder information and try to track down the dog that way.

The realtor (we'll call him Sam) was equally, if not more so, stunned that we'd caught and kept his lost Sheltie. We met him in front of his office to let him identify her--he brought a picture from his fliers, so that we could verify that this was his dog. We hadn't taken her out of the box so that she wouldn't have this one last chance to flee before being returned. Sam, as it turned out, hadn't had the dog for long before she found her chance to escape (she'd gotten her harness caught on the lawnmower and backed out of the restrictive contraption). He'd been putting food out for her ever since--17 months.

We gave Sam the shampoo we'd bought (I'll say it again--she was one smelly, smelly dog), plus the harness and leash and dog treats and food that Roger had picked up, before we knew about Sam. Roger and I like to think it was a good bonding experience, Sam giving Princess a bath--probably two shampoos.

This picture isn't of Little Red Riding Hood/Brenda/Princess, but it's about what she'd look like if she were a happy dog. Less white on the chest. And she won't be this fluffy for a while--she's probably had a lot of matted fur cut away. (Brenda is one of the names that was given to the dog before Sam got her; she didn't respond to it, so he renamed her Princess.)