Country Kids Back in the City

Standard

 

IMG_7606

Lions Gate bridge & downtown Vancouver

It had been 7 years since we had been in Vancouver and, thanks to an appropriate conference, good timing, and easier mobility with fewer pets, Alistair and I flew back to the sprawling city we have both called Home.

Alistair was born there and grew up in West Vancouver. He attended UBC for both his undergrad and medical school training. I was born there and lived in the suburb of Port Coquitlam until my family moved to Grand Forks, a much smaller town. I returned for 6 months of every year after I turned 12, though, for my skating and I spent a lot of time in the city during my Chilliwack-college years in the early 90s.

And while we know our way around and we have many, many friends and family members still there, Vancouver definitely isn’t our Home now.

For one thing, there’s the traffic.

 

P1070020

Downtown Georgia street. Cars perpendicular to one another.

It wasn’t surprising because Vancouver has had 3 million people and 3 bridges to the downtown core for many years but it still takes some adjustment to get used to after a long time away. We drive lonely gravel roads to get to our ranch in Montana and Alistair spends hours on highway 200 that darts across this enormous state where he won’t see another vehicle for 2 or more hours.

We both remembered the frustration of real traffic when it took 30 minutes to travel 5 plugged city blocks. On a Sunday!

 

P1070023

Rear view mirror of the line-up behind us

While the streets are all where we left them 7 years ago, they have been re-routed to allow for an incredible network of bike lanes. And these cyclists are hard core! They share the streets with cars, trucks, buses and taxis with a confidence that would seem to better fit a suit of armor versus just their little helmets. Which is another reason we could never come Home to Vancouver to stay.

 

P1070022

This was after the taxi cab decided he was going to cut through everyone.

I took advantage of a sunny morning while Alistair was learning all about Pediatric emergency updates and opted for a trip down Robson street… on foot. Vancouver is easily explored that way and there is no road rage.

Robson street is a classic for Vancouverites. Its where we used to drive up and down the road, bumper to bumper on Friday and Saturday nights, looking at everyone who was looking back at us. Cruising Robson street.

This time around, though, I was cruising somewhat as a tourist. Or, better yet, a spectator. The street and the city didn’t disappoint.

 

P1070001

Robson st.

I got to share in the festivities associated with Falun Dafa Day! (I had no clue at the time but its a traditional form of Chinese meditation that is persecuted in its homeland). There were drums, a band and dancing, all performed in brilliant colors with smiles on the performers’ faces. This all happened on the front steps of City Hall. How Canadian.

 

P1070003

BC weed on display… with cops right there.

Then there were the open displays of the various types of weed you can buy and what different things they were good for. Right in front of the street police. I overheard the big guy telling British tourists that marijuana wasn’t going to be a criminal prospect in the near future so they weren’t busting anybody anymore. Not for sharing information or selling T-shirts with the beloved plant leaf boldly celebrated.

How even more Canadian.

 

P1070004

Loved this!

I loved seeing the bikes you can rent around town. I mean, why not use those bike lanes, right? Its a Green concept and a healthy concept and its SO Canadian and it made me smile as I continued down Robson street on one of the first sunny days the city had seen in weeks.

 

P1070006

Oh, Robson st., you haven’t changed a bit.

I chuckled to myself when I saw the stores that had been there when we cruised the street close to 30 years ago.

And I smiled when I craned my neck upwards to gawk at skyscrapers on other streets during my little jaunt down memory lane.

 

P1070007

A little higher than the capitol building in Bismarck (tallest building in ND).

The city is full of construction and concrete and the skyline has grown. There appears to be no end to the impressive towers and while it was kind of neat to see it was just as nice to see the older, historic buildings of downtown Vancouver.

 

P1070008

Our hotel

Like the ancient Hotel Georgia, where we stayed up on the 11th floor. The bar there used to be known as somewhat of a dive but the entire place has been revamped and it was as beautiful as it was luxurious. (And pricey but we have that handy exchange rate on our side right now.)

Our hotel was across the street from the famed Hotel Vancouver, which is now a Fairmont. Everyone knew it from its copper peaks and it probably still is a feature to the skyline even if it sits in the shadow of an array of skyscrapers.

 

P1070010

Hotel Vancouver on the left.

With conferences and concrete and sirens and throngs of people downtown at all hours, it was a welcome relief to eventually cross the Lions Gate Bridge and head to West Vancouver. We couldn’t find parking at Lighthouse Park (Alistair’s neighborhood stomping grounds back in the day, where he would hike, swim and fish for hours without seeing a single soul) so we made our way to nearby Eagle Harbor for a walk along the ocean.

 

P1070026

Hello, Ocean!

It was a gorgeous day with hardly any wind and I remembered how it was so easy to fall in love with Vancouver during good weather. You can find peace and serenity if you look hard enough or you know the secret places.

 

IMG_7585

Eagle Harbor yacht club in the background

The briny smell of the ocean was a wonderful sensory memory. It took me back to my parents taking our boat under the old Port Mann bridge in the 70s when we lived there. It transported me to walking in the sand at White Rock and eating the most incredible fish & chips wrapped in newspaper. And it delivered me to Kits Beach where we would meet with other skating friends for pic-nics in the early evenings after a full summer day at the ice rink.

 

P1070031

Eagle Harbor yacht club

It took Alistair on his own journey as we revisited the house he grew up in. Its re-painted and has had a change or two done to it and there are roads and subdivisions with many houses behind it where there used to be train tracks and a forest but its still the house his dad designed many years ago.

 

IMG_7577

Alistair’s childhood home

And what’s a trip for us without the golf clubs?

We were excited enough just to see my dear friend, Liz and meet her hubby and even more pumped when they invited us to a round at their private golf club out towards UBC, Shaunessy.

 

P1070046

Alistair getting ready to play along the Fraser River

Some of the holes had temporary greens but most did not and our merry foursome shared old stories, updates on mutual friends and our families, a drink or two and much laughter.

 

P1070049

Tan and Liz, together again… with bottled Caesars! So Canadian!

The course has a lot of history, which Danny was able to share having grown up playing golf there. He is the best golfer we have had the opportunity to play with in our short golf lives and it was an idyllic, flower-adorned little place to lose yourself within the big city.

 

P1070047

On the 2nd tee along the river at Shaunessy

It was a great way to end a trip that brought our little family back together again. Yes, we finally got to enjoy time with both Gareth and Whitney this trip and it was as laughter-filled as ever.

Whitney’s bestie, Jaclyn joined us, too, which was also fitting as she has been an honorary Fyfe for as long as I’ve known the kids.

 

P1070017

Jaclyn, Alistair, Gareth & Whitney, downtown Vancouver

The 5 of us had a wonderful meal of incredible seafood at Yew restaurant in the Four Seasons right across from our Hotel Georgia.

And we picked up right where we had left off, which filled both Alistair and I with warm fuzzies.

 

P1070019

Blurry. Back at our hotel.

The kids joined us back at our hotel for more stories and for me to get my 3rd book into Whitney’s and Gareth’s hands. Jaclyn has to start from scratch so I gave her the 1st book, Lost and Found in Missing Lake.

Our trip back to our home land was an exciting journey and although we didn’t get across to Vancouver Island where more friends & family live, and we didn’t eat at a White Spot or Keg (so Canadian) and we had to pay a toll to cross the new Port Mann Bridge and it was a few days until I knew who was eliminated on Dancing With the Stars, there was so much that we did do and see.

More friends.

 

P1060997

Lori and I enjoying lunch downtown

More familiar roads.

 

P1070044

Getting ready to cross Lions Gate Bridge

More favorites.

 

P1070024

Alistair hand selected a tray of Purdy’s chocolates (Canadian classic!) for his staff in ND

And more familiar stomping grounds.

 

IMG_7563

Jellyfish of the Vancouver Aquarium.

And now we’re back home, together in Montana for a few more days before Alistair heads back to our ranch in North Dakota. Rainy cool weather has prevented many people from enjoying our Montana golf course but we’ve tried to get out there every day since we’ve been back.

It was fun visiting the big city again. Even if every Vancouverite wears black. How “city chic.” I guess. Like I would know.

I’m happy to have already lived such a diverse life in diverse places and I’m happy with where we are now. Sure, I’d like it better if Alistair and I were together full time but that’s not how it is at the moment.

 

P1070040

Alistair and I hiking in West Vancouver

Its good to be Home with the pets and my upcoming book events. Its good to be together. And while the politics of Canada are a little less frightening and volatile at the moment I’m okay to be where we are. We are both dual citizens, proud of certain aspects of each country that we call Home.

Because Home is where you feel connected, even if its not where you started out. As Toad the Wet Sprocket says, and as I’ve quoted before, Home is “not the place where you live, but the place where you belong.”

Here’s to you, Vancouver!

 

P1070051

Fun Shaunessy foursome with Liz and Danny G!

 

P1070036

More ocean time at Eagle Harbor

 

P1070029

Oh, Ocean, it was lovely to see you again!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘Tis The Season

Standard

I love the seasons in Montana.

Winter. Spring. Summer. Fall. Conference Season!!!

040

Aloha toes! You know what that means!

My annual veterinary dermatology conference was on Kauai this year which is probably our favorite of the islands.

Hawaii’s islands all have a distinct flavor or feel to them.

Maui is happening. Its hip. Its trendy. Its where tourists flock with their families and the place has a real vibe to it.

The Big Island is enormous and covered in black lava. And there’s a volcano erupting that keeps the snowbird retirees from the mainland interested. It vibrates a little slower than Maui.

1015

View of the southern shoreline from the Grand Hyatt.

And then there is Kauai where life moves even slower.

The trade winds had stopped blowing our first couple of days there so things heated up. It was unusual to experience that and even the locals were sweating up a storm.

982

Getting toasty on the Poipu Bay golf course our first day!

You get used to 3-shower days because the mix of 100spf sunblock and sweat feels just like you imagine it does.

Anything that isn’t cotton attaches itself to your body like a second skin and driving around in circles in the golf cart as fast as you can to cool off makes total sense.

986

The view from the last 3 holes at Poipu Bay were spectacular.

The Poipu Bay golf course became our home-away-from-home-course. The staff were hilarious and treated us like Ohana the second time there. The course was in great shape and we were some of the only players there each day!

1006

Our second round at Poipu Bay… views like this and the place all to ourselves!

Alistair became somewhat of a celebrity during an organized one-hour lesson for the 14 veterinarians who had signed up for the annual golf tournament.

It was a free lesson and we showed up on time (which most veterinarians have a hard time doing). Everyone else was an hour late so that gave us time to visit with head pro, Chad. (Chad had been stationed in Great Falls years ago and remembers being cold for 10/12 months.)

Chad asked for a volunteer to try using his directional tools that he’d set up and Alistair went for it.

The rest is history.

989

Cart crew hamming it up with Alistair with his busted Driver head.

Chad: “I’ve never in my life witnessed anyone shear their Driver head off and send it flying like that.”

They leant us a Driver for the tournament the next day.

The tournament was great for Alistair and Dr.Rich and his son-in-law, Danny but it was a complete bust for me.

992

Golf cart parade heading out to tee off for the tournament!

I don’t even know why I’m admitting this because I’m usually pretty competitive with myself but I totally sucked that day.

My only real saving grace was my drive on a par 3 that landed a few inches from the hole. Our only birdie.

997

Our foursome, Alistair, me, Rich & Danny

Our team still laughed a lot and I played great golf every other time Alistair and I went out so I’m not worried. Embarrassed, perhaps, but not concerned.

1161

One-legged, healthy-looking Nene at the golf course.

We did so many more things than just play golf, though.

We got to hang out with Alistair’s daughter, Whitney and her husband, Lau and we met his fun parents, too. The kids made a great BBQ for us at their place and we all laughed and relaxed and told stories about our adventures in life.

987

Me, Alistair, Whitney & Lau at Tidepool’s restaurant. This was when the trade winds weren’t blowing and we were as warm as we look here.

The kids met us for Smith’s Luau, which is a well-known place and show. Its also where the famous Fern Grotto boat tours take off from.

1021

At the luau!

1019

Lau and Whitney with us at Smith’s

The food was terrific and the stage for the show was beautiful under the starlit night. The performance was pretty good but if you’re going to jeer the crowd and tell us we need to clap more and you’re the fire thrower-guy, you maybe should practice tossing and actually catching those things a bit more.

I’m just saying.

061

Ready to load up for our incredible adventure!

Our biggest adventure this trip was an afternoon jaunt over to the remote island of Ni’ihau, where non-Hawaiians are not allowed to go.

Unless you’re invited.

Or you charter the helicopter owned by the Robinsons, who own the island.

1081

We’re going to Ni’ihau!!!!!!

Whitney, Lau, Lau’s mom, Fredlyn and our new best friend, Tony from Ohio joined Alistair & I on a twin-engine bird that was over 30 years old.

1078

Lau and Fredlyn just before the flight!

1082

Up, up and away!

Our pilot, Dana was incredibly knowledgeable and gave us a superb aerial tour of the island before setting us down on our secluded, gorgeous, sandy beach where we spent the afternoon.

069

flying towards Ni’ihau

There is so much I could say about this trip but then the words fail me. It was beautiful. It was a privilege. It was Ni’ihau.

074

more of our aerial tour

082

Largely untouched shoreline on Ni’ihau

086

No fishermen that day. Some of the villagers ride a horse for 2 hours just to get to the shore to fish.

087

shells, lava, debris…

1105

Our beach for the afternoon.

We snorkeled, we relaxed, we hunted for shells (which we were allowed to bring back), we pontificated, we watched a monk seal sunbathe, we beach combed and we admired the beautiful land on the traditional island that a few hundred pairs of feet get to walk on each year.

116

Snorkeling off Ni’ihau! It was like living in a giant saltwater aquarium!

I’m sure it was different for each of us. Particularly Lau, whose stomach didn’t enjoy Dana’s showboating in the helicopter on our way there. ‘Nuff said.

1028

Trade winds came back! Southern shores off the Sheraton.

Then it was back to reality (which is unreal on Kauai) and a few more conference days for Alistair.

We dined at Dondero’s, Tidepools, Merriman’s, Keoki’s, Duke’s, Rum Fire, Red Salt, Ilima Terrace, Lava’s and the Plantation Gardens. We highly recommend a stroll through their amazing gardens even if you don’t eat there.

174

“Fraggle” plants at the gardens.

182

orchids at the gardens

1157

The Plantation Gardens

We managed golf at the former Kauai Lagoons, (now Hokuala, which means Rising Star) where the airplanes landed immediately adjacent to a couple of holes on the back 9 and the term, Jungle Golf took on a whole new meaning.

1042

One of our trips through the jungle at Hokuala!

1068

Hokuala’s signature hole with a cruise ship docked at Nawiliwili in the background. None of our balls went swimming!

We had one more round at Poipu Bay where our Ohana treated us well and before long we were dining at Duke’s and then killing time waiting for our night flight out of Lihue.

We are rejuvenated and relaxed and tanned and ready for winter. The wood stove is on and the first few inches of snow in Montana has already melted. Loki had another seizure the day after we returned so I’m keeping her close. We still walk & talk, though, and she did a once-around the entire house & yard yesterday.

We love our Aloha adventures but we love to come home, too. Mahalo for reading, and it was great to see Aimee, Richard and Bruce and of course Whitney and Lau and meet his cool parents, David and Fredlyn. Aloha. Until next time.

981

One of those no-trade-wind-days on the golf course early in our trip

1010

Fun supper at Dondero’s with one of my veterinary classmates, Aimee and her boyfriend, Jason!

048

the Sheraton luau dancers as seen from our walkway

1111

Our beach on Ni’ihau

1166

Final golf of the journey, once more at Poipu Bay, hours before we had to fly home.

Aloha, Baby

Standard
858

Beautiful plumeria trees with their subtle sweet fragrance

As I’m listening to the rain come crashing down outside knowing it will turn to snow overnight, I’m not all that concerned.

I don’t mind the mud and the puddles and the cold and the wood splitting and the need to dress in layers because I’m buoyed by our most recent trip to the islands.

Hawaii Island, specifically.

Aloha.

250

Waikoloa Beach Marriott, where we stayed

We have been in love with the Hawaiian islands since our first trip there in 2009. We both try to arrange conferences there on an annual basis.

The veterinary dermatology conference I’ve attended 5 times now rotates between Kauai, Maui and the Big Island. That’s what took us over there last week.

007

Sunset on the island of Maui at last fall’s veterinary conference

The flight from Seattle to Kona wasn’t without some excitement. Not turbulence or anything frightening like that.

No, this was excitement on the human front.

Our plane was being held for some passengers who were in the airport but couldn’t be located.

Eventually they  came thundering down the aisle with two little kids, enormous bags of diapers, every use of the F-word imaginable, all while slurring their words and swirling their take-out cups.

Guess they had been in the bar.

034

Bird sanctuary on the east coast of Kauai, January 2014

Wife sat behind Alistair and proceeded to grab onto the back of his chair for balance (because you are so off balance when seated, right?)

She was extremely vocal about her dismay over the lack of cup holders.

As if we were on a flying minivan.

Their 2-year old kicked my chair most of the flight and wailed non-stop when both parents eventually passed out.

When Wife woke up (more F-words) she spilled 3 drinks in succession. With even more F-words.

At first it was orange juice but a couple of hours into the flight over the Pacific they somehow allowed them to have a Mai Tai. (Sploosh) (F-word). And another. (Sploosh, again….)

825

Finally playing golf in Hawaii! We loved it.

We eventually landed in Kona where it was dark but beautiful.

The airport there is open-air and made up of tiki-type huts.

Its pretty awesome.

We have a system where I run to rent the car and Alistair retrieves our luggage. Worked like a charm.

110

The Ali’i Lavender Farm on the slopes of Maui’s dormant volcano, Haleakala

While our room wasn’t what we’d requested and the view of the pools, lounge and enormous tree out front meant for less time on the lanai at night, we began to embrace the Hawaiian way and got into our island groove in no time.

Hawaiians are adaptable, friendly people.

They adapt slowly because everything and everyone moves slowly in Hawaii.

The sun takes its time descending into the ocean in the evening.

069

Sunset from the fishponds by our Marriott last week

Why rush it?

The well-managed feral cat colonies are in no hurry to go anywhere.

051

Feral cat colony by the Marriott on the Big Island- I counted 20 kitties at one time.

If food and water are provided, and your furry companions are there, and your ears are notched because you are altered and there is funky lava all around you to lounge on, why not hang out and chill with your buddies?

047

Very photogenic Big Island feral cat

043

In the islands, these kitties do it ‘island style’

034

More feline aloha.

Most of the restaurants move a bit slower but that’s cool.

Who needs to be in a hurry when you’re looking out towards the palm trees listening to the ocean waves come upon shore?

The famous Mai Tai adult bevvie is almost designed to help you move a bit slower as well.

080

Big Island Mai Tai last week- guaranteed to help anyone chill

341

Maui Mai Tai from last year’s conference

island barbie 2010

Island Barbie with her Mai Tai on Maui in 2010

Now that we consider ourselves sort of, kind of, in a way, not really golfers, we booked tee times and went for it!

We laughed, we made par, we got lost (my fault on that one!), we learned that rocky lava does a number on golf balls, we stared at the beauty around us, we laughed some more, we drove balls into lakes, we observed golf course goats, we got rained on and we got sun tans even while wearing SPF 70.

844

Alistair at the Waikoloa Kings golf course with a dormant volcano in the background

We played in the golf tournament hosted annually at this conference. We had never signed up before but I know we will do it again.

A bunch of eager, happy vets headed out bright and early on the Waikoloa Beach par 70 course in a parade of golf carts.

846

Golf cart parade! We were the merry leaders!

We were teamed up with Dr.Brock and Ron, who was 83 years young and knew how to hit the heck out of a golf ball.

849

Coolest team in the tournament on the signature hole at the Waikoloa Beach golf course

Granted, around the 15th hole he looked pasty and white and Brock was kind of helping him stand up.

It was a hot day for anyone, let alone an 83 year old who hadn’t played 18 holes in a few years.

And yet he rallied to finish and enjoyed the humungous hamburgers and beer with everyone else during the luncheon.

Our team shot 70.

834

Waikoloa’s Beach course signature hole…. jaw droppingly beautiful with crashing ocean waves all around.

The conference was great- we got to reconnect with friends we have met over the years (Dave, Cathy, Alan, Amanda, Erica, Pam) and make new friends as well (Brock, Ron, Bruce and Quinn).

874

Dr.Brock, from Indiana, joined us for more golf… even when the electrical system went haywire and nobody could control the sprinklers we approached it Island Style and played on through. Aloha! Fore!

The only time things sped up for us last week was when we boarded the Blue Hawaiian Eco-Star helicopter for the Big Island Spectacular 2 hour tour.

233

AWESOME trip yet again with Blue Hawaiian!

It totally lived up to its name and I don’t mind shamelessly promoting this company for their exceptional pilots and tours.

141

Up close and personal with the current eruption on Kilauea via Blue Hawaiian helicopter tours

The only way to see some amazing parts of the Hawaiian islands is by air and we’ve got every penny’s worth each time we’ve flown with Blue.

173

Watching the planet being created as fresh lava marched towards the ocean destroying everything in its path

Our pilot, Shane was enjoying the trip as much as the rest of us and added on an extra 30 minutes to the tour. We had incredible timing with the lava flow, the weather and the clouds.

200

Cascade waterfalls along the eastern coast of the Big Island

I can never get enough of the waterfalls and rugged coastlines and I want time to move even more slowly.

216

Wind-whipped eastern coast of the Big Island seen from the air in our front seats of the helicopter

Its even more cool when you get to sit up front, which we did. I was the co-pilot.

I clapped my hands and grinned like the village idiot when Shane asked me if I wanted to shut the helicopter off.

Something about the islands brings out the little kid in me.

239

Lanai views from the Marriott… not our room, though. We got to Linger Longer here for 12 hours which was long enough to enjoy the palms and the ocean.

And I am once again filled to the brim with aloha and love and sunshine and a spiritual type of re-awakening.

A true appreciation of what it means to be alive in a land that is still forming in the middle of the Pacific ocean.

871

Alistair and I on our last day on the Big Island

The weather report says we’re heading for 14 degrees Fahrenheit in 2 days and we got the wood stove going when we landed back in Montana 2 days ago.

And I’m totally cool with this because I know the islands are still there… waiting for us to return someday.

With outstanding seafood, refreshing Mai Tais, romantic sunsets, spectacular helicopter rides, tropical flowers and morons on airplanes who get wasted without thinking of anyone but themselves and who spill their drink and swear like sailors but even that doesn’t matter because of the adventures ahead and the ones behind.

Mahalo, Hawaii.

Until next time.

878

Saying goodbye with the hula statue at Kona International airport a few nights ago

079

Ahhhhh…..