Tuesday, August 31, 2010


Guys don't like snakes.

I don't know what it is, but the last few times I have come across snakes, all the guys have freaked out. Then they usually ask why girls like snakes. Of course, not all girls like snakes, so maybe not all guys hate them.

I like snakes. They're kinda neat. I think it's mostly because I don't see them very often, so it was always very cool to actually find one as a kid. It might also be because I only ever come across garter snakes which are harmless and little and kinda cute.

Still doesn't explain why guys don't like them. Like my downstairs roomie and landlord for instance.

This is what just happened:

I hear an obscenity from downstairs, then silence. A couple minutes later I hear the call of distress.

"Hey guys, can you come down here? I really need some help with this! Right now!"

I come downstairs to find Landlord wearing oven mitts and wielding a frying pan with a panicked look on his face. He was also in kind of stance you usually see in nature videos when some creature is trying make itself as large as possible in a last desperate attempt to defend its life.

His voice had an edge of hysteria. "There's a snake in my bag!"

I look down to see a backpack in the middle of the floor with a pile of computer wires beside it.

"I pulled out that bunch of wires, and one of them was a snake! Did you hear me freak out??"

In all fairness to Landlord, that would be extremely surprising. Like something out of a horror movie, or a bad dream - picking up something innocuous and discovering creepy crawlies. Not fun.

But that part was done. The snake was underneath the bag, and now just had to be dealt with.

"I was thinking that if we corral it into this frying pan, I can take it outside. Or maybe I should go get something with a cover, maybe that would be better."

"It it just a regular garter snake? Little guy?"

"Yeah, I think so, but it's under that bag! I don't want it getting away in my house!! If we go from either side, then between us and that wall, it's not going to get anywhere."


"You ready?"

He lifts up the bag.

The snake sits there.

I go pick up the snake.

"OH my gosh."

I go to take it outside.

"Wait, I need to get the camera."

"It's crawling up my sleeve!"

"Yeeeaaaghh! Never mind, I'll get the door."

"No it's ok, I stopped it. They just like dark hidey holes."

"Ok, I'm getting the camera."

Picture is taken. Snake gets put outside. Landlord resumes breathing.

"Oh my gosh...I hate snakes. I have to go call my fiancée now."

Saturday, August 21, 2010


I saw two movies last week.

This in itself is unusual, since that's about the number of movies I average in a year - not including ritual rerunning of things like Monty Python, Princess Bride, or A Muppet Christmas Carol.

Even more strange was the fact that I didn't really want to see either one and was pleasantly surprised by both.

The first was "Date Night". Now I am immediately put off by anything that has "date" anywhere in the title. I'll admit that's a little judgmental, but in my experience - it's for the best. However, I was pleasantly surprised by this movie. It started out as a date and turned into a crazy adventure. This is always a good thing. I'd like to think that if I ever end up going on a date, it will involve some sort of randomness like in that movie. Hopefully not involving a crime syndicate or anything though.

Also it's Tina Fey - and she's pretty awesome. Watching some of the outtakes at the end made me realize that quite a few lines in the movie weren't really scripted. That off-the-cuff kind of thing is really what made it work. It was...funny! And not really a romantic comedy after all. Yay.

Movie #2 - not so much. Clash of the Titans. Do I really need to say more? It's a terrible movie. I saw the version from the 80's a while back, just to laugh at the animation, and I guess the CG in this version are better. But it's really just...kind of lame.

Oh, did I say I was pleasantly surprised by this movie? Right. It was nice, for a change...to see the guys wearing shorter skirts than the girls. 'Nuff said.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Yet another caucasian moment on vacation

K: We've done a lot of wine tasting, how about we go shopping this afternoon, you know, just to break things up a little.

S: Breakin' it up! [starts beatboxing]

Me: That's "Breakin' it down" Steve...

S: I am so white....

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Vacation days 4-whatever.

As I mentioned before, I am terrible at keeping things on schedule and doing things that I am "supposed" to be doing. Hence it taking forever to post again about my vacation. With several installments, and a set order, even a vacation is not random enough to keep me interested in writing about it!

But anyways, I did promise to at least write about the exciting part that happened the next day, so I guess I'd better do it.


Yeah. I can't really describe it here cause I need too many motions and sound effects. But if you ever have the chance to go, even if it means driving 2 hours out of your way - DO IT. Just a thought.

Then we drove to Eureka. Lots more windy roads and bridges which I actually didn't sleep through. Must have been too wired from the dune buggying. We crossed the state line and somehow thought that being in, you know, California, we might get some use out of all the sundresses and tank tops we brought, but no. Still cloudy and even a bit of rain this time.

Eureka is a funny little town. I can't really describe it any other way. It had a strange, almost eerie feeling to it. Partly it might have been our hotel which was straight out of the 1800's (ok, it had phones and a tv in the room) and almost dead silent. Maybe it was the gloomy weather, or the many closed vintage shops that made it seem out of another time, or maybe...maybe it was just weird.

But we had a good time, and I'd like to go back. Aside from the subtle strangeness, and maybe even because of it, Eureka is a neat little town. There was an old bearded blues band playing (surprisingly really well) for an old bearded audience that was grooving along outside in the town square. We saw a whole bunch of seals off the boardwalk and so many neat little shops we would have liked to spend some time in, had they been open. It was kind of good that they were closed, since we were going for a run through town to work off at least some of the absurd amount of dairy we ingested the day before.

Also cool was the little place we had a late dinner called "Bon-Bonniere". Really neat 50's diner kinda thing going on, excellent fresh food and (what looked like) killer desserts. Katrina and I even went all girly when we saw the Shirley Temples on the menu and had to have them. They were as sugary and pink and full of maraschino cherries as we expected. It was a good night.

The next day's drive took us through Redwood National Forest and we took the scenic route "Avenue of the Giants". Wow...I've always loved Cathedral Grove on the island, and this was...amazing. At Steve so succinctly put it: "Those are big trees." Walking through them and looking at some of the massive redwoods, I didn't wonder why things like dryads and ents are a part of our collective mythology. I wanted to stay all day and just sit there, but we were on a schedule...and the next stop was a big one.

The Napa Valley. It was what everyone (else) was waiting for. It was a heck of a long drive, with the last stretch being the slowest and most winding. I think our top speed for the last couple of hours was about 40km/h. But we made it and went out for a most amazing dinner at Zuzu Tapas. Again, the restaurants were the highlight for me. We did three wine tastings the next morning, and although I enjoyed that a lot, and the wineries and buildings were beautiful, my favourite part was dinner.

At one winery, the lady who was serving our wine also happened to be a chef, and was recommending pairings to us for each wine. For one of them she happened to mention Thai food and when all our ears perked up visibly, she told us of a restaurant we had to visit.

It was called Little Mango, and there was a sous-chef for another restaurant sitting at the table next to ours. You'd think a so-called amazing place where chefs eat would be expensive, but I think the special was 16 bucks. Most things were around 10. It was amazing...and I know I say that a lot, but when you have 4 talkative people at a table, not saying a word for 5 minutes at a time - you know it's good. We usually share our food around so that we can all try more things, but no one suggested it this time. We were too busy eating.

Phew! Almost done. Napa Valley for a day and a half, then on to San Fran! I slept in the car again, but only for an hour. It's apparently a short drive to San Francisco, and I woke up in time to see us getting on the Golden Gate bridge. It's actually kinda orange. Which I guess is a lot closer to gold than the black or grey that most bridges are. Our hotel was close to the bridge, but not ready for us so we parked the car and went to check out nearby Chestnut Street.

It was fun, some little shops for the shoppers to enjoy, teletubbies wandering for the...kids? to enjoy and just generally a good feel. As soon as I stepped onto the sidewalk I said to myself "Yeah, I'd come back here." We found another great restaurant called the Grove which was fast and furious and fun. You pay and get your number, try and find somewhere to sit then and wait until the servers find you. They've got a short menu of maybe 4 sandwiches, 4 salads, 4 mains but everything was excellent so there's something for everybody. Fresh squeezed orange juice made my day. They claim the best bacon in the world, and if they're not right, they're not far wrong...and they actually DO have the best macaroni and cheese in the world. Or at least that we'd ever had. Ok ok, I know, enough of the food!

Once we put our stuff in the hotel room, it was back to wandering. We split into pairs again since Katrina and I tend to travel in a very random way (surprise surprise) just picking a general direction, or having one goal in mind and then happening across whatever we happen across, while Steve and Karen are far more specific and want to get to the things they want to get to.

Anyways, our hotel happened to be on Lombard St which had the block known as the windyest street in the world. It took an hour to get to that section of it, but we didn't care and yeah. It was pretty windy. We thought our drive to Napa was bad! But this block was basically a car length and a half of straight road before making a switchback in the other direction. Yeah, it was a steep hill. Even the other side of it was a steep climb to get up to that point. Later, we checked out our total distance of the night (7 miles) and with the hills we considered it a workout.

Next stop was Chinatown! Well, we didn't really plan to stop so much as move with the massive flow of people down the street. Yup, sure was a chinatown. Lots of produce shops, fish shops, dried everything shops, tourist traps, take out food...etc. It was anything special per-se but it was just so...condensed! Like taking Vancouver's chinatown, multiplying it by 10 and putting it in a space maybe twice the size. We wandered into a dried everything store just for the heck of it (and to see if they had a specific tea I like) and one of those EVERYTHING IS HERE AND MOST OF IT IS A DOLLAR AND IF YOU EVER THINK YOU WILL NEED SOME KIND OF JUNK YOU WILL FIND IT HERE stores, since Katrina had never done that. Then we ended up having some really good really cheap dim-sum at another random shop.

After that, we headed down to Union Square, which would have been a shopping heaven had it all been open. As it was, we made it Macy's and Katrina nearly had a seizure trying to look in every direction at once when we got to the shoe floor. It's probably a good thing most things were closed, since she stopped at every other massive expensive name brand window on the way back, looking like one of those commercials at Christmastime with the kid looking in the toy store.

We went back to the other extreme of prices on our wander back through Chinatown. By this time it was dark, so we got to see the other side of it. Lanterns across the street, musicians playing "Yankee Doodle" on traditional chinese instruments, tourist trap shops brightly lit up with bright gaudy shiny things. I almost got sucked in by a nice sushi dish set. Glad I didn't because I saw the same ones back home.

Didn't make it to Fisherman's Wharf, since it was so dark and late and we needed more food. (It was sushi, and yes it was again, really good. Hey don't knock it - I have the most amazing instinct for finding good food on the road) We had been thinking about going for Karaoke, since we saw a place open on our way out, but I ended up being a little too tired at 10pm after those 7 miles, and a little too worried about finding a way to the airport for me to enjoy it, so we just went back to the hotel.

And that, my friends, is that. The hotel had an agreement with a shuttle service, so I had no problem getting to the airport for my 7am flight back home to Canada. My 2 bottles of wine also survived the trip in the cargo section and were enjoyed thoroughly by all who imbibed. My week in Vancouver visiting family and friends was excellent and now I am back in Victoria, hard at work.

Yeah, really hard at work. Played 5 games of pool this morning.

I love my job.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


Scene: hotel room. Middle of great vacation. S is on laying apathetically on the bed, with iPhone again.

K: Wow, you sure look enthusiastic. This vacation must be so depressing.

S: Yes, I'm horribly horribly depressed and everything is terrible. I hate life. I would kill myself except that I'm too lazy to get off this bed. It's ok though. There's an app for that.

Vacation Days 2-3: "Today we will have adventures. We will have cheesy adventures. My favourite kind." - Steve MacDonald

Off to a late start, not only because of the ignoring of the alarm, but also because of a most excellent and huge breakfast at the hotel. It was also $20 for all four of us. Steve's 3 pound omelette was probably the most expensive, but had we wanted it to, it could have fed us all. Especially since it included hash browns. Being full lent to the "moving slowly in the morning" feeling for all of us, so it took a while to get on the road. Luckily it was not a hugely long drive that day, just a few hours with some stops for nice views. There were lots of nice views, so it took more than a few hours, but still not too bad. We went over the biggest bridge I have ever seen going into Oregon. It must have been a couple of miles long, and to make it even more fun, there was construction on it! Actually there was a lot of construction on bridges this whole trip, with one whole side closed so everyone has to stop a wait a bit.

We were very happy to get to Seaside, despite the fact that it was not Cannon Beach, as Katrina originally thought. But Cannon beach was only a few miles away, so easy to get to for us…but we decided on food first. This is typical of us. It happens when you hang around musicians. We had a surprisingly good lunch at a diner aaaaand then went to the fudge store next door. And then to the Taffy outlet. "Candyland!" it was called, with many many flavours of salt-water taffy. We bought…pounds…of taffy. And got our pictures taken with the Candyman! Cause we could.

I'm surprised we could move after all that, but we managed to walk back down the beach to our lovely avocado room at the Sandy Cove Inn. It was distinctly green and 50'sish. Which was awesome. It had a purple sparkly lava lamp. Which was also awesome. Just ask Steve.

Cannon beach was neat, though the tide was too far in to get out to the really great tidal pools, we still enjoyed walking in the surf, and watching people fly all sorts of interesting kites. And all sorts of interesting dogs. Well, the dogs weren't flying, but they almost were with happy doggy fun as they ran through the waters. We went back into the little town and discovered it to be mostly closed but found one interesting shop full of interesting clothing that we all liked, but only Katrina was successful in finding something to suit her. Although, I think her success was enough for all of us, since her…"garment"…was kind of 6 in 1.

Then came Dinner. It was a Delight.

We actually just wanted coffee…but it turned out the coffee shop closed in the afternoon and turned into an Irish restaurant for dinner. Then we saw what people were eating, and decided to come back when we were hungry. Again, we made a good food decision. The place had only been open a couple of months, but our waiter was the husband of the chef, who apparently had "decided to take some time off fine dining" to open this place. Well, a soup and a salad, a lamb stew, a pork chop, some curried mussels and a LOT of irish soda bread later, we were very glad she had made that decision. Nom.

Then back to the hotel for more wine, as seems to be our nightly custom.

Aaand up in the morning for more driving, which seems to be our morning custom.

It wasn't a hugely long drive to our next stop at the famous Tillamook dairy. This wasn't our final destination, but it was definitely a stop. And a half. Or maybe a half-and-half? Whatever kind of stop, it was one we had been looking forward to. There was cheese. And there was more cheese. And ice cream. Ice cream such I have never had before. It tasted of cream and caramel and deliciousness. The cheese was ok too. Hah! It was also amazing. We bought some habanero jack cheese to take with us to go with the ubiquitous evening wine later on.

But then we stopped at Blue Heron cheese, which was an import place where we tasted more heaven in the form of several kinds of brie. Of course, we couldn't say no to that, so we bought some smoked brie and baguette to be our lunch later on.

At this point, one has to wonder "Will she eat anything at all other than dairy today?"

Not the best idea for someone who is slightly allergic/lactose intolerant. But I LOVE CHEESE!!!

Ahem. Anyways...

After we finished with our cheesy adventures, we took the Three Capes scenic drive. Instead of following the highway down, it follows the coast directly - you guessed it - around three capes. It is long and windy and scenic. We stopped at each cape for some scenic pictures, then continued on the scenic drive to the next scenic viewpoint. It was very scenic.

Okay maybe I sound a little sarcastic, but don't get me wrong - I love the coast, and the ocean and trees and scenery. So it was really nice. There was just…a rather…lot of it…all…at once. Or maybe I was just still tired and therefore ornery. I don't see how, when I still was sleeping in the car all the time. Maybe it was getting woken up all the time that made me less than my usual chipper self. It was like constant morning, and a morning person, I am not.

The third cape was a real surprise for us. It was a busy little town, with a very busy beach that had lots of kids and dogs and sand castles and happiness. Maybe it was also the fact that the sun was kind of out for once. I picked up a tomato and avocado (Gasp in shock!) to go on our smoked brie baguettes. We found a lovely rock on which to have our picnic, and enjoyed lunch, while trying to keep it away from a very happy curious and probably hungry dog. And we saw a seal lying on the rock! It was alone and looked rather sad and tired. We asked later and it was apparently not even full grown, so hopefully it was not sick or lost. The parks guy with the bullhorn on his truck keeping people away from it didn't know either.

We also saw what appeared at first to be annoyingly obnoxious boats blasting their horns while driving at full speed towards the beach. But it soon became apparent that this was a standard practice to get the boats back on the beach without hitting small children. All in all, an entertaining lunch, but we weren't done with this beach just yet.

We had to go to the hill.

Did I forget to mention the other highlight of this stop? At the end of the beach, near where we ate, there was a HUGE hill of sand that was very very steep. At the top there were some trees and it gave way to a rocky cliff from which there were some more scenic views of the ocean, but it was the hill itself that caught our attention. And the kids running/sliding/wiping out/rolling down it. The shallower section of slope was probably 45 degrees. The steeper part, more like 60. Katrina and I looked at each other and said "Let's do it!"

We ran up the hill. Or rather, the first 30 feet of it. Then we walked. Then we crawled. It was one of the toughest climbs I've ever done, but we kept going. And then ran down. And nothing I say here, even if I say it ALL IN CAPS HOW AWESOMELY FUN THIS WAS WHEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!! The point will never really get across.

And then we did it again!

I wished that I hadn't just eaten, that we had more time, that maybe I was 9 again, because I could have done that all day! But then, we had to get back into the car, but happily, refreshed, and filled yet again, with cheese.

More driving, more winding roads, more ocean, more driving, more sleep. There was a shopping stop at a little glassworks place, where we all bought stuff that was hugely cheaper than can be found in Victoria. Then more driving and more sleep. We finally made it to Reedsport, where we had our biggest hotel room thus far. It was an extra $10 to get the "suite" which was twice the size, and had a couch, bar, fridge, etc…an excellent place to have one more bottle of wine and …somehow refrain from eating our cheese with it. I also managed to avoid cheese (don't ask me how!) at the mexican restaurant where we had dinner. It was another excellent meal - definitely authentic and HUGE portions. Tastiness. I was happy.

It was a nice couple of days. Nothing particularly…eventful, but great anyways. And probably for the best, since we were looking forward to one of the big "events" of the trip, which was to happen the next morning.

But that goes on the next post!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Vacation Day 1: Having things inserted into your mouth is not the most pleasant way to be woken up. Though having said thing be tasty chocolate helps.

I didn't sleep last night. Was too busy visiting friends and meeting a fiance to get home early enough to pack before needing to leave at 4:30am. I was determined to stay awake on the ferry to Port Angeles, just because it's a different ferry going the opposite direction that I usually go. I failed miserably, hence being woken up by Katrina putting a piece of mint chocolate in my mouth. Apparently it was open. Apparently I should expect such things when travelling with my chosen accomplices.

Turned out not to matter that I slept, since there wasn't anything to see. Except a lot of water. Both in the ocean and the sky, but mostly suspended in between, blocking the view of everything. We arrived shortly after my sleep was disturbed by a ferry employee coming our little seating area and saying "Apparently we are in Port Angeles Bay." To which my only response was "Apparently we are in a fog bank."

Luckily, our first stop was a hike on Hurricane Ridge, and we ascended above most of the cloud. My temporary narcolepsy ensured I missed most of that 17 mile road. When we got to the top, it was a gorgeous day with incredible views of mountains in every direction. There were also views of very tame deer in the parking lot. The hike was pretty nice, but not too strenuous. There was snow, and lots of trees and wildlife. (For a complete listing, see Appendix A.) I brushed up on my sub-alpine vegetation, and learned to recognize some new types too. One of the neatest parts was when we followed the trail along the top of the ridge, and there was a warm wind blowing from inland which alternated with a cool breeze from the water. If we looked towards the ocean we could actually see Victoria and Sooke! Or at least some fog where Victoria is…

If we looked in the other direction, we saw the road we had driven up, and there were a few sights to see there. Very happy motorcyclists were one. There were both very happy and very unhappy cyclists on the road, depending on which direction they were going. Some of the cyclists we had seen on the ferry earlier like the guy Steve christened "Ugly Shorts". We also saw some more than slightly stupid tourists getting out of their cars to look at the bears. Wait, bears!? Yeah! We saw bears! A mother and cub black bear crossed the road as we were watching from the ridge, and that was really neat. Don't see those too often, and we're glad we saw them from that far away, even though it was slightly worrying to know that they were going in the direction of the trail we were on.

We also saw a raven. Well, we saw several, but this particular was talking, and Katrina decided to talk back. There was some discussion for a few minutes until the raven got a disgusted look on its face, and with one last contemptuous caw, flew off in a huff.

The trail was a really long one, but we had decided to not do the whole 4 miles out and 4 miles back, since we needed to get going. We did start getting the "just one more peak" syndrome going on, but we eventually stopped when we saw the one we dubbed Mt. Steve. When we turned around and started walking back there were a whole lot more people on the trail, and significantly fewer deer in the parking lot. A good thing to have gone so early in the morning.

On our way back down the road, I could see why the cyclists and motorcyclists were so happy. A very nice road, and steep so there was no need to pedal to get up to extraordinarily high speeds. It looked like more fun than being in the car.

But I could sleep in the car.

After a lunch of the MOST AMAZING SUBWAY SANDWICH EVER in Port Angeles (It was UltimateTurkey Bacon Avocado. I can't believe they don't have it in Canada.) I got in the car and woke up at the Hot Springs. They were…very nice. It was still sunny and the pools were hot, and there was a cold pool too, and room to sunbathe and…it was a happy couple of hours spent. It's the kind of happy that deserves more words, but doesn't need them, so I'll leave it at that.

At our next stop, we followed the trail of despair down to the abyssal beach in the cove of ruin. We stopped to take a picture under the tree of evil.

Actually it was called Ruby beach, and although it didn't look rubyish at all, it was still very cool. Breaking waves over jagged rocks was a highlight. So were the incredibly smooth stones that were so much fun to skip across the creek. We walked down the sand and I enjoyed the mist and the water and the rocks for a while. Karen didn't walk as far, and when we got back to her, we found out why: she had been watching some otters! There were 4 or so of them, and the adults went off after a bit, and left he 2 young ones playing on one little rock island. They were incredibly cute little water rats, slithering in and out of the ocean, and just generally being adorable.

Does that sound like a full enough day? Pretty much. We headed for our destination: Pacific Beach Navy Resort. It was 8pm by then, and definitely time for dinner. We had an hour and enjoyed it with some pretty good food, and a most excellent waiter named Kirk who appreciated and even shared our silly sense of humour. Of course, he couldn't really give us a good wine recommendation, but we could hardly hold that against him when he had just carded us and told us he was 20. Right. American drinking laws.

You think I slept enough in the car? Nah, still slept most awesomely. And didn't hear the alarm the next morning. Which was okay, because everyone who heard it, ignored it anyways. A most excellent way to start a vacation.

Appendix A:

Ravens, chipmunks, bumblebees, red-tailed hawk, tree swallows, house finches, robins, Oregon juncos, deer, black bear (and cub) western hemlock, douglas fir, cedars, yarrow, magenta paintbrush, indian paintbrush, alpine lilies, dandelions, bluebells, lupins, sickle-top lousewort, red mountain heather.