Posts Tagged ‘Vancouver’

Days 62 and 63: Vancouverian Wanderings

August 1, 2010 3 comments

Location: Vancouver, British Columbia

I have been pretty spoiled since crossing the border on Thursday night.  I’ve had Will’s apartment to use as my own, and I’ve quite enjoyed having a base to operate out of for the past few days.  Travis, Will’s brother, has kindly taken time out to show me around the area and share in a few meals.  Travis and I get along real well, and he’s taught me a lot about the area and about Canada, in general, and even answered my stupid questions:

  • What is a ‘Canuck’?
  • What’s the significance of the maple leaf?
  • Is Steve Nash a national hero?

Speaking of Steve Nash, I showed Travis one of his great Vitamin Water commercials.  For your enjoyment:

One of my favorite lines: “People say, hey, you don’t want to swim with sharks. But I’m faster than sharks, so it’s not a big deal.”

My first full day in Vancouver, Friday, I spent some time down near the water and walked along Jericho Beach.  Unfortunately I didn’t have my camera with me, but it was the first time I ever sat at a beach and saw snow-capped mountains in the distance.  Pretty amazing, and the weather at the beach was great.  Travis later told me that there are times in Spring where you can golf, go to the beach, and go skiing all in the same day. 

I met up with Travis later in the day and after dinner we did a good amount of walking, touring the downtown area.  Vancouver is a very pedestrian-friendly, very bike-friendly city.  Never before did I see so many cyclists out at midnight on a Friday.  And the city is quite clean and easy to get around in, if you don’t mind a few hills here and there.

We had plans on Saturday to do some hiking, but that wasn’t until later in the day so it allowed me the morning to run some errands.  This apartment I’m staying in is quite conveniently located, and I could easily walk to the post office, a couple fresh fruit markets, and a photography store where I needed to get a photo for a travel visa.  Coincidentally, the people running the photography store were from Taiwan, so I had a nice time conversing with the folks about my time in their country.

In the late afternoon we made our way to Grouse Mountain.  Travis drove, so I got to take some photos of downtown Vancouver as we made our way to the mountain.

The hike was to the top of Grouse Mountain, called the “Grouse Grind.”  I was warned beforehand by my brother Mike about how strenuous the hike would be, and I was told I’d be soaked with sweat not long into it, but also was promised the views at the top were well worth it.  So I was somewhat mentally prepared, but it still was quite a beast of a hike.  Not terribly long, mile-wise, but just always going up.

Travis before the hike

Feeling optimistic about the Grouse Grind

So we set off for the top.  Fortunately it wasn’t incredibly hot out, because in no time we were sweating.  Not only does it go up and up, the steps are often fairly high up so you’re taking big steps each bit of the way.

up and up

we were both pretty soaked just a 1/4 of the way up

keeps going

the light at the end of the tunnel

Made it!

As I was told earlier, the hike up to the top was well worth it.  About an hour and 20 minutes after starting the hike, we were treated to the outstanding views of Vancouver, the English Bay, and Vancouver Island.


We spent some time walking around the top of the mountain.  There were giant wood carvings to check out, a grizzly bear habitat (unfortunately no grizzlies to be seen), and a ski lift that took you to the very peak of the mountain.

Windmill at the peak

View near the windmill

The ride back down the lift was particularly scenic.

the mountains of Vancouver Island in the distance

Fortunately, Grouse Mountain has a gondola system, so we didn’t have to hike back down to the bottom.  We took the gondola, got back in the car, and made our way back to Will’s.  Saw this nice sign as we got closer to downtown:


Found some great pizza for dinner, and then it wasn’t long afterwards I was ready for bed.  On Sunday, Will’s landlords – Rose and Peter – offered to take Travis and me out for Dim Sum brunch.  Haven’t had Dim Sum in forever, so that will be a great meal before this trip goes further north.


Day 61: Oh, Canada

July 30, 2010 8 comments

Location: Vancouver, British Columbia

Miles Driven: 315

Total Miles: 14,602

The goal for today, Day 61, was to get to Canada.  But first, I had to check out the Hoh rainforest (recommended by Margaret in Seattle) which is part of Olympic National Park.  I should’ve gotten on the road before 8AM, but I found myself incredibly comfortable lying there in the car under the blanket.  I had woken up originally around 2AM and was up for a while, but then fell asleep and was out for several more hours.  Lesson learned: near 12 hours of lying in a reclined car seat does a number on your lower back.  But it was good to get the rest.

I was only about 35 miles or so from the Hoh rainforest (northwestern section of Olympic), and just by the drive there I could tell I was in for a unique experience.

I made it to the Hoh visitor center area where there were a number of trails through which you could explore the rainforest and the nearby Hoh River.  The Hoh River trail looked especially appealing – 17 miles out to Mount Olympus, ascending you somewhere in the neighborhood of 5,000 feet.  But I decided to save that for another time, especially considering I wanted to get up to Canada today, not in two days.  I ended up going on a short hike through the forest that, although pretty chilly, was quite interesting.  Yesterday, I thought I saw the most green I ever saw in my life…that feeling was even further intensified this past morning.  Not sure what else to say, but I took a lot of photos.  Very beautiful place.

Just outstanding.  I never got to spend time in a temperate rainforest before and was happy I made it out here.

By 9:30AM or so it was time to make moves in the direction of Canada, though I was still quite a bit away from the US/Canada border.  I would first have to navigate the width of Olympic along Hwy 101, and then catch a ferry back across Puget Sound, and then I could head north.  I was making decent progress along 101 for a bit, and then I found a local cafe and I decided to stop for a breakfast.  Best oatmeal ever.

After the breakfast, I got back on the road, but I was delayed quite a bit by road construction.  It wasn’t until 2PM that I made it to the Port Townsend ferry (a different ferry than I took out to the Olympic Peninusla. Ed had recommended this route back across the Sound).  And by then I was too late to catch the 2:15 ferry, so I had to wait for the 3:45 one.  No worries.  I relaxed, read a bit, and got a quick bite.  Enjoyed the scenery near the Port Townsend ferry, as well.

Eventually got on the ferry and we were on the way towards Whidbey Island.  Wasn’t a long ferry ride by any means, but man it was cold on the deck.  But the blue water and mountains made for a nice view.

Mount Baker in the distance

Soon was driving once again, and I crossed Deception Pass which brought me closer to the other side of the Sound, and closer to I-5 which would take me to the border.

Deception Pass

I stopped at a Starbucks near Burlington, Washington.  I took a little break, took advantage of the free WiFi, and then was soon back on the road and it wasn’t long before I made it to the border and Immigration/Customs.

Note the cool Canadian flag display on the left

The last time I crossed the border into Canada (late June, I think it was), the lady asked me how long I was staying.  I responded “a couple hours”, they checked my passport, and I was soon on my way.  Not so fast here.  I was grilled by the customs officer, albeit in a polite manner.  It seems the officers are trained to ask questions in such a way that they’d easily trip up someone who was trying to hide something.  Here’s some of the questions I faced, rapid-fire, one after the other:

  • What is the purpose of your visit?
  • What do you do for a living?
  • Do you have any weapons in the car?
  • When was the last time you had a gun in the car?
  • Do you have any drugs in the car?
  • When was the last time you had drugs in the car?
  • How much cash do you have on you?
  • What are you doing in Vancouver?
  • Who are you staying with?
  • What is his name?
  • How do you know him?
  • Do you intend to sell anything in your vehicle while in Canada?
  • Where are you coming from?
  • Where is your home?
  • Have you ever been to Canada before?

So if any of you are going to Canada to take part in some ne’er-do-well activities, you better have your story 100% straight or this line of questioning will expose you quickly.

I’m not sure if they are that thorough with everybody who comes through, but maybe it was the New York tags and all the gear in my car that makes the officers more inquisitive.  I answered the questions straightforward and no problem, but I think maybe people get naturally suspicious when I tell them I am unemployed by choice and that I’ve been on the road for the past 60 days.  I dunno.  So the officer handed back my passport with a form and told me to pull over to the side and go meet with a customs officer indoors.  So here I knew I was going to get my car searched (you may recall it was searched going from New Brunswick to Maine).

I had to answer a lot of the same questions for a customs officer inside, then he took my keys and went to perform the search.  It was about 15 or 20 minutes later when I got my ID and keys back and was free to continue on my trip.  No complaints about the process.  All the Canadians I have encountered have been extremely polite and courteous.

In Vancouver live brothers Will and Travis.  Will was on my brother Mike’s college crew team, and I met him and his brother for the first time at Mike’s wedding in Oregon in 2007.  Will offered me his apartment to crash at while in Vancouver even though he would be out of town.  Very generous.  Kindly, Travis offered to get me the key and show me around the area when he had free time.

So I arrived in Vancouver, picked up Travis at his job, and he showed me the way to Will’s place.  After dropping off my luggage, we went out and grabbed some Lebanese food.  I haven’t had Lebanese food in a long time, and Travis picked a great place – Al Basha.  Really hit the spot, and one of the best meals I’ve had on this whole trip (I have a picture on my phone, but having trouble getting it to my email.  Trust me when I say it looked, and tasted, delicious).

I’ll spend the weekend here before making my way further North.  Vancouver seems like an incredible place, and I’m looking forward to exploring it.


P.S.  Speaking of my phone – I adjusted my service plan so I wouldn’t be charged outrageous roaming fees while in Canada, but I still will have to limit myself from a lot of voice/txtmsg use.  So if you reach out to me in one of those ways and don’t hear back, know that I’ll probably get a hold of you online later on.