To the Top of the World and Back in 10 Days – Part 1

I have always wanted to drive to Alaska and experience the North, and have been trying to get people to go with me since I was 17. Guapito and I decided that this is the year that we would finally do it. He booked two weeks off of work, but auditions, rehearsals, and the biggest windstorm I have ever seen (our power was out from Saturday noon to around 2:30 AM Monday morning… we live on a farm and are on a well and septic, so no power is a big deal) kept interfering, so we left a lot later than we had hoped. No power meant that we couldn’t do laundry or dishes or clean the house the weekend before we left, so all that was left until Monday. We spent Monday doing our best to finish the laundry, clean the house and ready the barn and coops for the farm sitter. Due to this, we didn’t end up leaving until Monday evening. We grabbed dinner on the way since the power outage had left us with no edible food. It poured rain for most of the way on the first night. We made it to 100 Mile where we decided to find a hotel after midnight. To our surprise, they were all full. “Is there a work thing happening?” Guapito asked. “No, they’re all tourists,” was the answer. We finally found a nice motel that had a room, and as a bonus, let us take our dogs inside with us.

100 Mile Visitor Centre

100 Mile House Visitor Centre

We hit up the tourist centre the next morning to get some information about our trip, and to see the world’s largest cross-country skis. The ladies working there were very helpful and gave us a map and guides for the places we were wanting to go. The map and the Alaska road trip guide proved to be extremely useful. I was anxious to get to the Yukon, so instead of exploring, we started driving again. I kept looking at the brochures and guides, seeing if there were any good, quick hikes or activities to do, but I was absolutely worried that we would not make it to the Yukon, and so we ignored all of them.

Williams Lake Tourist Centre

Williams Lake Tourist Centre

Aside from getting gas, where we bought some of the most delicious nectarines I have ever eaten from a little stand, our next stop was the William’s Lake tourist centre. There were lots of goodies to purchase there, and I more or less went wild. I bought some gifts for our farm sitter, and a few other little things. We were allowed to bring the dogs inside, and the employees doted on them and bestowed them with treats.

Not too much time passed until we were off again. Next stop: Quesnel, though we didn’t actually stop there. One of my friends is from Quesnel, and while we were driving through the first part, I couldn’t help but remark how great a thing it was for her to have left Quesnel, since it seemed to be a displeasing town. Later, however, I realized we weren’t actually in town yet. The town itself is actually quite nice, and I was pleasantly surprised. I could see why someone would want to live there, but that wasn’t enough to entice me to stop, so on we went.

We had a little debate about whether or not we should take the detour to Barkerville, and decided against it. According to Google, it was 2 hours out of Quesnel, so I calculated that going there would take an extra day in order to enjoy it. Though disappointed, I figured we could always go to Barkerville on another trip since it isn’t too far away. I was desperate to get to the Yukon, and quite worried that I would never get to see the tundra because we’d get caught up doing something closer to home. We ended up making an impromptu stop at Xatsull Heritage Village, which was excusable because it wasn’t far off the main road. Unfortunately, they only accept cash, which we had absolutely none of. Thankfully for us, they took pity on us, and we got to do our own walk-through free of charge. It’s in a very beautiful location, and we had an interesting chat with the fellow there. I absolutely love aboriginal cultures, so this place was totally up my alley, even though the tipis aren’t from that area. When I was young, I was set on living in a tipi, and I always made tipis out of cedar for myself and my cats. Now, I don’t think that is the ideal abode for me, but I still think they are awesome.

Xatsull Heritage Village

Xatsull Heritage Village from the lookout

Hill Home

After leaving Xatsull, we had to decide how far north we would go. We set an ambitious goal of staying in Fort Nelson that night (approximately 12 hours away from 100 Mile), but we almost didn’t make it…

Road Trip USA Part 1 – Washington, Oregon, California

We interrupt your regular broadcasting of reminiscing about my trip to France to announce my most recent expedition: a road trip in the US of A.

Guapito left on the afternoon of December 26 without much of a plan. We knew that we had to meet our friends in San Jose, California, sometime on December 27, but we hadn’t established a time. We both like to make sure the house is clean before we leave, and because we have a hobby farm, we have to make sure that it’s all set up for the people taking care of things while we’re away. It was especially difficult this time because the majority of stores were closed for Boxing Day, but we made do (or so we thought). I had a panic attack about leaving. I knew everything was going to be fine, but I have a hard time leaving everything in someone else’s hands.

Because Guapito is Mexican, he has to get a new $6 visa if 6 months or more passes between visits. While inside, the border guard made fun of my incessant blushing (I didn’t even know I was blushing, which made it worse). Then we stopped at Wendy’s to get some food. Wendy’s in the USA has delicious lemonade, which we don’t get in Canada, so it was an obvious “must have” for us. We soon passed by a recreational marijuana store. I had totally forgotten that pot is legal in Washington. I passed out in the car despite it being early still, and after Guapito got some gas, he wanted to go to the store at the gas station, but I suggested that we get some snacks at Safeway (fruits & veggies… eff junk snacks!), so we did. I looked for bread cheese sticks, but they didn’t have any. We then crossed the street to Red Robin to get some ooey gooey cheese sticks. Unfortunately those do not exist in the USA. We got some regular cheese sticks with thai chili sauce instead to get somewhat close to what I was craving. It was not the same at all, but decently delicious.

We were soon out of Washington and Guapito got super excited when we drove through Portland, he had no idea it was so large. It actually did look somewhat enticing. They have been advertising tourism to Portland a lot in Vancouver, and I guess it has been having a positive affect on me.

We really did nothing in Oregon except fill up the car with gas ($33 in the States compared to $75 in Canada). It was full serve, so that was weird for me.  We stopped at a rest stop just before 2AM. Guapito was tired and wanted to sleep. I was wired and itching to be on our way, so I took over driving. I’m sure the scenery on Mount Shasta was spectacular, but the only thing I could see were the stars, which are beautiful in their own right. As I was driving, I realized that our GPS had us arriving at our location in San Jose at 7AM. I figured there was no point in arriving so early and not getting any sleep, so I pulled over at a rest stop just before 5AM to catch a few zzz’s before the sun came up.

We left our stop at around 8, and got gas not too long after. Guapito got cinnamon buns from Cinnabon that he said were disgusting. The funny thing is, despite the USA and Canada being similar in many ways, you can order the exact same food from the exact same company in both countries and the products can taste completely different.

We stopped in Pleasant Hill to get some breakfast and use the WiFi. Unfortunately the place where we stopped for breakfast didn’t have any WiFi. The breakfast was ginormous. The leftovers lasted me the rest of the day.

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Breakfast @ Jack’s

We wandered around the complex until we picked up some free WiFi. I let my friend, Rae, know that we about an hour away from our destination. She wasn’t answering her phone (I called her via BBM), so we left and continued on our way. We spied a Starbucks and stopped to get some coffee and to use their WiFi. I mean, Starbucks should have WiFi, right? Wrong. Luckily the Safeway had WiFi, and I was able to contact Rae. We agreed to meet at Wyndham Garden as soon as possible.

The place is actually pretty nice. If I wasn’t so cheap, it probably would have been a good idea to have headed straight there and gotten a room to have a decent sleep instead of in the car. Guapito was so pleased with the place that he inquired as to the room rates, despite having no use for them at all. We were only there to park the car.

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Wyndham Garden

We registered for parking, and then unloaded the car. Unfortunately, I do not pack light.

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Guapito and our bags

It wasn’t too much longer until our friends arrived, and we packed up the trunk and went on our way. They had been to Pebble Beach in Monterey the day before and wanted to go back. First we stopped at Stanford University to admire the architecture and have a look around. There were a lot of people there despite it being the holidays

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Stanford University

 

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Stanford University

Then we stopped at Paris Baguette, a Korean chain, and they got lunch and some drinks. I still had my leftovers from the morning, so I ate that.

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Paris Baguette

 

We then went to Pebble Beach, but missed the sunset. It was still pretty and we had a good time.

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Pebble Beach

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Night time at Pebble Beach

 

It was still about 6 hours to get to our hotel in Manhattan Beach, so we headed out again, only stopping for gas and some dinner. Rae had pizza and the rest of us had burritos and tacos. When we finally arrived at our destination, we had some minor difficulties with our room. You could see marks on our door that had been washed off saying “Nice Try”. We couldn’t figure out the lights, and one of the bulbs was dead. Guapito couldn’t figure out the shower, so he spent his shower holding the pin to make the water come out of the shower head. We realized later, that he just didn’t pull the knob out enough to get enough water pressure. The room also lacked a fridge, and we had items that needed to be refrigerated. It wasn’t until about 2AM that we finally were settled in and ready to sleep. I sure was ready for a good, long sleep after the last two days. Unfortunately, it was not to be.

France Day 5 – From Paris to Saumur

As lovely as Paris was, I was ecstatic to see more of France. My traveling companion had decided to rent a vehicle (under the guise that it was more economical than taking the trains. It turns out she just gets really car sick if she’s not driving.) I wasn’t allowed to drive because the extra insurance would have added 10 euros a day. I later regretted this because we did not exactly always want to do the same things. Or maybe ever. For example, I really wanted to go dancing, but alas it was not an option. I guess it wouldn’t have mattered anyway. Despite me paying for half of the car, half the gas, half of everything, I did not have equal access to it, which I’m sure would have continued on even if I had paid for the extra driver.

Getting out of Paris wasn’t the easiest of activities. My traveling companion is obsessed with using the GPS for going absolutely anywhere. I was in charge of guiding her through the GPS, however I had difficulty correlating the map on the phone to real life. We therefore made a couple wrong turns. As I said, my traveling companion enjoys being extremely prepared and having everything planned out. I am a “go wherever the wind blows” kind of person. She was therefore not exactly a happy camper about these things. We were still pretty much strangers, however, so it’s not like it would have done her much good to ream me out.

Saumur is in the Loire Valley, which is apparently known for its wine, but I can count the number of vineyards I saw during the trip there on one hand. It was a beautiful trek, and we were able to stop in a tiny town to grab some food. It was way too much food. It was interesting food. People stared at us. It was awkward, but the town was lovely. Because it was August, most of the towns were almost entirely shut up. It’s nice that the French get long vacations. 🙂

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Cute little, super old, church. I think it was from the 11th century?

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So pretty!! I love how clean and well-kept it is!

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It looks abandoned and cool. I love abandoned buildings. It’s actually just the back of the church.

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Everything closed in August.

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Not one vineyard to be seen.

When we finally made it to Saumur, I was beyond ecstatic. It is a really beautiful place, and we checked into a really cool B & B called Le Patio, that seriously has the happiest man I have ever met in my entire life. He was always happy, bright, and full of cheer. AND THERE IS A CASTLE!!!!

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So essentially my life is chocolate, so this appealed to me greatly.

My traveling companion was a bit tired, and I love to walk and explore, so after a dinner of sweet and salty crepes, I went off on my own and wandered around town, seeing all that I could see. It was really good for my soul. I needed it badly.

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I was taking pictures of this kitten, because I thought it was adorable. I had no idea anyone was actually in the house until I looked at the pictures. My face subsequently went red.

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AGH! SO PRETTY!

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Oh France, just stop it with your incredible awesomeness at every corner.

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Guess where I took this picture from? A FREAKING CASTLE.

I’m not gonna lie. I completely fell in love with Saumur that first evening. I would never want to live there full time, but I would love to go back and visit. There is just something about it that pulls on my heart strings.

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Even French alleys look cool. Take notes peoples!

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A view of the island, from just outside of our B & B.

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Did I mention the FREAKING CASTLE?

If you can’t tell, this was my first time seeing a real castle in real life. I was stoked beyond imagination. Although my being over-ecstatic was mostly kept inside my body.

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Stables at the castle. ❤ horses.

Oh, and did I mention the horses? France, and horses = perfect combination.

It was getting dark, so I didn’t get to explore as much as I had wanted to. I went back to the B & B and yelled for my traveling companion to open the door for me since we only had one key. This part of my journey ended up being very bittersweet. Sweet because I loved Saumur, and bitter because my Aunt, who had ALS, took a turn for the worse at the exact same time.

Weekend Madness to Picture Butte part 1

Here’s the deal:

6 horses

2 dogs

3 cats

35 chickens

… are our responsibility. Every. Day.

It doesn’t sound like much until you try to get away. So we rarely do. Together, at least. The last two trips taken in this household were done separately. I, to France and England. The husband, to Mexico to visit his family. Finding someone who has the ability, time, and desire to farmsit (not to mention not completely drain our pocketbook, and must be trustworthy) isn’t exactly the easiest task. Oh, and of course it can’t conflict with our other activities, like, you know, work.

This weekend, we managed to do it. My horse instructor had the time, we set a price, she agreed, and off we went.

To Picture Butte.

Google Maps said it would take 13.5 hours to get from the suburbs of Vancouver to that tiny little town.

“Can’t we take just one more day to make it a little more bearable?” I pleaded with my husband.
“No. I have to work a half-day on Friday and I can’t take Monday off either.” He was firm in his decision. Whatever. I didn’t have to drive.

Friday came. I cleaned the house, (there’s nothing worse than coming home to a dirty house) and he went to work. Around noon he came back home. We packed, then packed the dogs, and were able to leave around 2PM. The dogs were excited about the car ride.

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First stop: Dairy Queen. Not even 5 minutes on the road and we grabbed some junk to titillate the senses. Blizzards, burgers, and fries! Oh my!

Second stop: Kamloops. 3 hours in, and it’s time for the dogs to stretch their legs and have a bathroom break. Maila apparently missed her potty time at home, and was dying to poop as soon as she got out. But only on the grass. Dirt just would not do. Everyone relieved, we grabbed some more high-calorie snacks and the hubster and I headed back to the car, only to find that Maila was insisting that she had seen enough driving so she could take over for awhile. We told her no, and she acquiesced.

DSC_0435We dropped by the casino in Kamloops and played a few rounds of Black Jack. We had just enough luck to leave without winning or spending a dime.

It was getting dark on our way out a town, so the pups decided to catch some zzz’s.
DSC_0441We stopped for dinner in Revelstoke. The husband in his pyjamas, we went to the 112 restaurant. I felt a tad awkward going in like that, but no one seemed to mind. Sitting in the car for so long and all the junk food made me crave something slightly more healthy, so I ordered a creamy prawn salad. He had steak, and we shared crab-stuffed mushrooms to start. It was all delicious. I was in heaven!

Leaving Revelstoke, I decided to drive for a couple of hours so that he could rest, seeing as he’d be driving until the wee hours of the morning. He snoozed while I battled the ridiculous fog, and of course woke up and demanded to drive once the fog was gone and it was clear skies. We took that moment as a bathroom break for all 4 of us, enjoying the clear, star-filled sky along the side of the mountain highway.

By this time, it was past midnight, and I decided it was pointless to stay awake, so I joined the dogs in the land of sleep until we reached Picture Butte. Instead of getting directions like a normal person, Guapito and his Mexican sidekick talked through the directions all the way from town to the house on the farm. “Why didn’t he just give you an address?” I asked. “Maybe there isn’t one,” he responded.

His friend, Chuy, and Chuy’s wife, Ceci, warmly greeted us at the door. I was shocked they were both up, considering it was 4AM. Since we had been on the road for 13 hours (we lost an hour with the time change), we made it short and sweet, trucked our stuff into the room, and all snuggled into bed for a few hours of sleep.

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