August 11th:We landed in San Francisco Airport at 8am and had to find something to do to kill time until our 11pm flight back to Sydney. So there we were, two not very energetic souls trying to figure out what we could do… First things first though, we checked our baggage in to save us having to drag them around with us for the day. We then grabbed some tourist brochures and after giving them a thorough once-over, a plan was hatched!We would hop on the Bay Shuttle bus and check out Fisherman’s Wharf. What a brilliant idea that was! Got dropped off at Pier 39 and given a phone number to ring when we were ready to head back to the airport. Now, what does one do at Fisherman’s Wharf at that time of day? What about something to eat first? But of course! So out came the box of Crackerjacks and some candy bars that ANGEL had bought us. Afterwards we wandered around buying souvenir trinkets and t-shirts, somehow managing to cram them all into our shoulder bags. My MOTH kept issuing warnings about the more “rubbish” I buy, the more he’d have to help me carry so of course I obeyed… Yeah, right!We had our fill of walking about and taking heaps of photos of Alcatraz, the Maritime Museum, ships, submarines and anything that we found interesting at the time. By then, our bellies were growling to be fed so we sat down to a very, very yummy lunch of clam chowder and shrimp salad. A glance at our watches showed it was all of 1pm! Hmmm… still a ve-ry long time before our flight, sooo… we took a two and a half hour cable car tour of the city. Best decision of the day, for sure. Man, that was one of the most entertaining bus tours I’ve ever been on. The driver was full of information and his running commentary was delivered with the aplomb of a stand up comic, except he was sitting behind the wheel of the bus! Imagine having Bill Cosby taking you on a tour… I would have loved to be able to capture the whole tour on a video camera if only I had one. Oh well, I’ll just have to be happy with photos we’d taken and the memories.
He drove us through the Presidio, past the National Cemetary, Bowling Center, West Coast Memorial and just about everywhere else that was worth a look. We went to the Golden Gate Bridge Visitor Info Center and Viewing Area where we were told to buy our souvenirs if we had money to burn. All I wanted to do was to use the restroom so I took off like a shot as soon as the bus pulled to a halt. Wouldn’t you know it? The queue was about a mile long – a busload of Asian tourists had gotten there only minutes before our bus arrived. If only I was wearing Depends… I made it though, so didn’t disgrace myself.
From there we headed off into town – up and down the streets of San Francisco we went, past fancy stores and restaurants and on to Chinatown. Just a slow drive through, not for a feed though… Then it was a turnaround to take us back to Fisherman’s Wharf. The two and a half hours sure did fly! Reluctantly we said goodbye to our wonderful bus driver (I think his name was Bob) and as a thank you gesture for such an entertaining and interesting tour, we gave him an Australian souvenir baseball cap. He was rapt!
By this time both my MOTH and I would have gladly killed for a bed to sleep on for a few hours but we managed to restrain ourselves and lazed on the grass at the Embarcadero instead. Enough was enough, we decided, so the next trick was to find a phone box to call for the Bay Shuttle bus service. After much discussion, it was decided that it would be way too crowded for the bus to come to where we were and instead it would be far easier for us to find our way to the Radisson Fisherman’s Wharf Hotel to be picked up. Somehow we found the energy to walk there, stopping several times to buy “just a couple more t-shirts for the grandkids”… By this time, my MOTH had given up on the warnings he issued earlier, so I went for broke – bought more t-shirts for the rest of the family, too!
We got to San Francisco International Airport just on dusk and wandered around studying the various menus at the food court there. I literally shuddered at the exhorbitant prices and firmly declined to have dinner there. Instead, we settled for a cappuccino each and I rustled around in my handbag for a can of smoked oysters that ANGEL had thrown in there. That was our “dinner” until we got on the plane. We then wandered around the airport terminal and wishing for once that time would fly. The boarding call couldn’t have come soon enough for us.
After a delicious in-flight supper, we settled in for a bit of a shut-eye in between watching bits and pieces of the movies being screened… through our eyelids! We arrived at Sydney Airport at some ungodly hour of the morning. From there we enjoyed another smooth uneventful short flight home to Melbourne, sailed through customs and were warmly met by my daughter, her fiance and my granddaughter who raced up to me screaming out, “Nenek! Nenek!” (“nenek” is not a rude word, by the way, it is an Indonesian/Malay word for “grandma”) before throwing herself at me. What a great homecoming and what a fantastic holiday!!!The very next day, my MOTH began looking for a job so we could start paying off our Visa bills…
July 22nd – August 11th: We hopped on a wee little airplane (so small that it could easily be mistaken for a crop-duster) out of Lafayette with a quick stop in Memphis to change to a bigger aircraft which brought us back to Seattle just before noon.Again, sweet ANGEL was there to greet us and once again we disrupted her routine with our presence. Everyone seemed happy to see us again (or very good drama schools in Wa?) ANGEL took time off work to make sure she could keep her eye on us so we wouldn’t get into too much mischief, so we included her in our escapades! We made many, many trips to Walmart, so many that I think if we had stayed longer we could have claimed some shareholding rights, I am sure.
ANGEL had been planning on taking us to see Mt St Helens [a volcano which erupted on May 18th 1980 when the top 1,314 ft (400.5 mt) disappeared within minutes – photos of before and after eruption – courtesy of Darrell Jennings], so a few days after our return from Louisiana, we set off. We shared our lunch at the Coldwater Ridge Visitor Center with some pretty friendly golden mantel squirrels before continuing on to the Johnston Ridge Observatory. Such a pity it was somewhat overcast that day, not to mention rather windy and cold, too. After buying some souvenirs we decided we may as well drive on to Portland, Oregon. We took advantage of Oregon’s sales tax free system and came back to Eatonville quite late that night with various goodies in our arms. I like shopping!
We wanted to check out the local fishing scene so after purchasing a consecutive 2 days licence, we first went to Lake Spanaway where we spent the best part of the day drowning our worms and playing tug of war with submerged rocks and logs. That wasn’t our idea of fun so the very next day, ANGEL took us to Ohop Lake. We temporarily became mountain goats to get down to the lake from the main road but it was well worth the effort as we caught 5 beautiful rainbow trout there. Hard for us seafood lovers to understand it but ANGEL has never eaten fish before! However, she was successfully tempted to sample the butter fried trout that I cooked up. We also caught a few nice bass from Jackie’s parents’ private dam and again, ANGEL decided to have a taste. She found out that fish when cooked right, is quite delicious after all! I must add that her newly acquired taste for fish did not extend to bbq’d smoked copperhead salmon though. She also politely declined our offer to sample some dungeness crab meat. Doesn’t know what she’s missing, does she?
Jackie’s boyfriend surprised us with tickets to see a baseball game – the Seattle Mariners playing against the Cleveland Indians at the SAFECO field – so together with ANGEL’s mum, we drove to Tacoma and hopped on a bus to get to the venue. All available seats were taken so ANGEL decided to sit on the floor! Good thinking actually, as she didn’t have to worry about any balancing act when the bus careered around corners, etc… We were all in high spirits at the prospect of an exciting ball game and lost no time in finding our way there. What an exciting first experience that was for my MOTH and I – we really got into the spirit of the game, right down to exchanging baseball cards with total strangers! Would have been so much better if the Mariners had won the day though.
I decided to show my appreciation for the wonderfully warm hospitality extended toward us by having a satay party several days before our departure. Somehow I think I got a tad carried away as I made 97 sticks of beef satays, 151 sticks of chicken ones and a huge pot of spicy peanut satay sauce to feed 10 grown-ups! Everyone had enough to eat, I think… We even got to see Jackie’s tooth tattoo! Not at all obvious that she is a keen fan of George Strait. It seems that everytime we turned around, it was time to eat again! We were having difficulties fitting into most of our clothes so we decided it was time to head for home – actually, the truth was that they have had enough of us in WA so we were deported back to Australia!
Alarm set for 2.30am and after a wake up cup of freshly brewed coffee, we got changed and headed off to SeaTac Airport for the 6am flight to San Francisco. Between ANGEL and I, I am sure we used up a whole box of tissues to mop up our tears. I hate goodbyes so again we just said, “See ya later”. God Willing we will meet again, either here in Australia or in the U.S. – it doesn’t matter where, really. God Bless the day we met on the internet and long live our friendship!!!
6th – 22nd July:
The Greyhound bus pulled into the Seattle depot at mid-morning and we got off, feeling rather stiff and weary. Too tired to comtemplate catching another bus service and with no cabs in sight, my MOTH and I impulsively decided to lash out and hire a limousine to get us to our next destination – the Red Lion Hotel. We had a reservation there as that was our rendezvous venue to meet up with Nell and her family. You could imagine how pissed off we were when we ended up at the Double Tree Hotel instead! It turned out that our chauffeur was new to his job and didn’t know that the hotel had a recent franchise change. So there we sat while the apologetic chauffeur went into the reception to remedy the situation. By now my MOTH and I were bitterly regretting our impulsive move but there was not much we could do except to ignore our thirst and hunger and wait…
Call it fate, call it what you will, but as we were lamenting our sorry situation, I glanced at a vehicle that had pulled up beside our limousine and who did I spy??? Yes, our dear friends! They too, made the same mistake!!! So, imagine if you could, the scene in the driveway of this hotel – two friends who had lost touch for the last 26 years finally meeting again – plenty of hugs and tears amidst screams of delight. Once the location confusion was sorted out, we travelled in convoy to our original intended rendezvous point – the Red Lion Hotel. After lunching together, our friends went back for a siesta while my MOTH humoured me in my desire to “check out the stores”. We met up for dinner with our friends at a Thai restaurant nearby and an early night was had by all as we wanted to be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed first thing next morning for our flight to Lafayette, Louisiana. There to greet us warmly were the rest of Nell’s family, so naturally we all had aching jaws by the end of that day!.
From the snowy mountains, lakes and awesome waterfalls of Canada to the hot and humid flatlands and bayous of Louisiana – definitely a shock to our systems. After the drastic adjustment to the climate, we got busy with more of the eating business: I dealt with the Asian fare (yes, more fried rice, curries and a lso a Chinese seafood steamboat, fried noodles, crab foo-yong and chili crabs) while Nell’s children treated us to deliciously home prepared local fare of crab bisque in bread bowls, fish fries, chicken and duck gumbo, kebabs, etc. Man, talk about great tucker!!! In between eating, we would drag out the set of Mahjong tiles that Nell had kept and play the Chinese game, just like we used to do in good old Singapore. Ah what great fun we had… Rachael, another of my Internet friends, took time off from her busy schedule to come and visit while we were staying at Nell’s home. She is a delightful lady and I am so glad that we finally got to meet. Oh, the magic of the Internet…
Having heard so much from Nell about the great fishing scene, we decided to part with an exorbitant sum of money in the purchase of appropriate fishing licences and a couple of compact fishing tackle sets for travellers. We then jumped into Nell’s car and off we went to Grand Isle, positively salivating at the thought of feeding our faces with crawfish! Unfortunately, we found out that we had missed out on the crawfish season (about two weeks too late) but Nell’s nephew (who lives on the island) got busy on the phone and managed to get 10 lbs of it to share among the three of us. They were delicious!!! [Crawfish are similar to what we call “yabbies” in Melbourne.] I now have a recipe for crawfish boil which I must try out one of these days… It certainly won’t be the same but definitely worth a try. We settled in for our first night there in Nell’s camper, parked on her nephew’s property and had planned on getting a good night’s sleep so we could try our luck at fishing bright and early the next mornig. Sound sleep did not come about however, as we were viciously attacked during the night by an army of ants that had perhaps come in to avenge the crawfish we had consumed. My poor MOTH was worst hit with some of the bites forming painful blisters.
While on Grand Isle, we had a go at fishing for speckled trout but despite making all the right moves with flicking of the rod, etc… the fish were able to swim around us in relative safety. To make up for it, our crabbing attempts were VERY successful – just walked out to knee deep in the very warm water and scooped the crabs up with a net. Talk about easy and fun. On the way back to Lafayette, we stopped at a seafood distribution place and bought a bunch of fresh green prawns (shrimps, as they call them in the U.S.) so I could whip up a feed of sweet and sour prawns. Everyone was suitably impressed with this dish (and the chili crabs were a big hit, too) so it was decided that we would make another trip to Grand Isle before our visit was over. This time Blaine decided he would come along as well. Yay!!!
A few days later, we set off again (this time in two vehicles) for Grand Isle. Again, we didn’t do too well with the flicking of the rods although Blaine did prove that there actually ARE speckled trout in the water, with a few fine samples to show us. [No, the bloke in the photo showing off his trout trophy is not Blaine, but Don, his older brother.] By this stage I had lost interest in trying to catch fish, delighting instead in netting more crabs! It was suggested that we could try a spot of night fishing – now that sounded like a heap of fun… so after a light dinner, we eagerly set off with hopeful hearts. We all had our individual head lights on show the way in the dark and also to leave our hands free to reel in the big fish. Not ten minutes into this fishing adventure and I realised it was not a good idea AT ALL! The mosquito repellent we had liberally used was more of an attractant, drawing all the mozzies within a ten km radius to where we were!!! Man, they were so bad I almost got carried away by a couple of them! Sure was glad I had put on a bit of weight by that time. On our second day there, we just concentrated on netting more crabs – now THAT was fun. The only “painful” part was the cleaning of the crabs we had caught but the eating part far outweighed the cleaning…
No visit to Louisiana would be complete without seeing New Orleans, so off we went for a day’s outing. As our visiting time in LA was fast running out, we couldn’t allow a bit of rain to ruin our plans so twelve of us set off… armed with all available umbrellas in the various households! After the hurried purchase of several rain ponchos when we got to the French Market, the rain stopped! Lunch was had at Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville, where I sampled some soft-shelled crabs (yum!!!) and ‘gator bites (not so yum). We spent the best part of the day buying stuff – Mardi Gras trinkets, Cajun recipe books and various souvenirs to take home. Of course we had to stop at the renowned Cafe du Monde to sample some beignets (pronounced “ben-YAYS” – rectangular doughnuts without holes, served fresh and hot with lashings of powdered sugar). After checking out the surrounding areas and many, many clicks of our cameras, we reluctantly headed back to Lafayette. I would love to be there in the carnival atmosphere of Mardi Gras time…
I was filled with anticipation when told that the bus would be stopping at a duty free store (if my memory serves me right, it was West Coast Duty Free in Surrey, BC) so passengers would get a chance to indulge in a few minutes of shopping. I gleefully hopped off the bus and re-boarded shortly, triumphantly clutching a bag full of duty free goodies. We went through the Canadian Customs checkpoint without any hassle but got several quizzical looks when we said our Canadian destination is Tumbler Ridge.
Hopped off at Vancouver Bus Depot and on to Greyhound Canada to continue on our journey. By the time we got to Kamloops for another bus change, our bellies were growling somewhat but we had overlooked getting some Canadian currency. Undaunted, my MOTH went ahead and bought some sandwiches and drinks with US currency. We got back onboard and started wolfing down our dinner. Halfway through my sandwich, I decided to use the restroom while it was unoccupied, so I put down my half eaten egg and mayo sandwich on my seat. Bad move! Upon my return, I promptly sat down on it, resulting in a decorative smear across the backside of my pants! The rest of the bus trip continued without a hitch with another bus change at Prince George and a breakfast of fried chicken wings at Mackenzie before arriving in Chetwynd in the late morning.
Our friends, Eric and Prudence, were waiting for us at the bus depot there and after a much needed cup of coffee (Tim Hortons, of course!), we travelled on in their vehicle to Tumbler Ridge. The small town of Tumbler Ridge is a fairly new one, built in the
early 1980’s, to house the families and workers in the two local coal mines (Quintette and Bullmoose) (Click on Quintette Mountain for larger image). When the Quintette mine closed in 2000, the residents warmly welcomed new neighbours, (mainly from all over Canada and the U.S.) into their friendly community. People like my good friends who retired there from Calgary.
I saw the attraction almost immediately – scenic vistas of the Rocky Mountains, lakes, rivers, waterfalls, abundant wildlife… oh yes, did I mention the magnificent golf course there? I believe the fishing is excellent too, although we never got around to doing any fishing, simply ran out of time…. Sure would have liked to wet a line at the promising fishing “holes” in the area. I guess to fully appreciate the beauty of this beautiful peaceful region and the various outdoor activities available, we should have given ourselves more time… and more warm clothing, too. Quite unprepared for the cooler than expected weather, the only warm clothes we had were a couple of windcheaters each and a light jacket.Where was I? Oh yes, the very next day after our arrival, our friends took us on a short, easy hike to Quality Creek – (note the word, “easy”) Yeah, right! Easy, my foot! The way there was fun, had a fire happening, cooked beef franks on sticks and cooled our drinks in the icy cold waterfall nearby. Then it was time to head back – that was when the word “easy” got misunderstood by my brain. It was like climbing the Himalayas, if you asked me! Needless to say, there were no more suggestions of future hikes after hearing my wheezy gasping pleas to slow down some.
While there, our friends took us to Dawson Creek (click on “Mile 0” on the left for larger image), Fort St John, the awesome Kinuseo Falls, Monkman Park (where they serve as voluntary rangers), Quintette Mine and various other interesting places. As a wee gesture of my appreciation, I cooked a pot of chicken curry for our hosts and threw in a free hair cut as well (during a friends get together bbq at Moose Lake). I had my first taste of a moose roast one night – it was okay but I made a point of not having seconds though. Give me a roast lamb dinner any time!
The whole township of Tumbler Ridge turned up at the high school grounds to watch the fireworks display on Canada Day (July 1st). I had forgotten what cold meant until that night – it was so cold my fingers couldn’t function properly so missed some good shots of the fireworks. My MOTH’s birthday the next day was celebrated with our friends – Prudence whipped up a very yummy rum cake while Eric did a magnificent job of preparing an Indonesian feast.
The next couple of days were spent sight-seeing, with me desperately longing to snap photos of bears and moose in the wild, while trying to absorb as much of the beautiful sights as I possibly could. I knew for a fact that there were bears aplenty as I had seen their poo in the middle of the road! More proof of elks, too – I got a photo of elk poo in my collection now, together with many, many photos of the native flora. I marvelled at the size of the native bird – the mosquito! I wish our Aussie mozzies are that big – far easier to see and swat, I reckon. If not for the fact that my family are all in Melbourne, I would seriously consider moving to Tumbler Ridge. I’ll bet I’d have some fishing tales to share, not to mention encounters with a bear or two!
All too soon, it was time to say goodbye to our dear friends at the bus depot in Chetwynd. After a tearful farewell, we got on a Greyhound Canada bus to begin our long journey back to Vancouver, then on to Seattle. At least we had the right currency this time and were able to enjoy lunch and dinner. From within the bus, I saw a glorious sunset that evening and then the sunrise as we approached Vancouver the next morning. It was a pretty uneventful ride as we spent our 17th wedding anniversary sitting up all night in the oh-so-romantic atmosphere of a moving Greyhound bus….