As some of you may remember, we took off for the May Long Weekend (aka Victoria Day Weekend) for British Columbia. Part of the holiday was spent at Rob’s mom’s place in Penticton, a curiously warm place that would blow away most American’s (not the intelligent or the well-traveled mind you, just everyone else) image of the Great White North as a semi-solid frozen version of northern Minnesota.
We began the adventure in Jasper. We stayed overnight and ate breakfast Friday morning at the Soft Rock Cafe, which is the same place we ate breakfast on the day of our wedding almost a year ago. I enjoyed revisiting that place and those memories.
Friday was mainly spent on the road. Western Canada is vast. Holidaying by road involves hours and hours of driving. Getting to B.C. means traveling over the Canadian Rockies. I have been on two of the routes now. Over the Transcanada from Calgary and the Coquihalla from Kamloops. I prefer the latter. It is twined and a smoother ride but though it appears to be a safer drive too – mountain travel can be dangerous no matter the time of year. On our way back, we saw the remains of a mudslide that took the Transcanada out of commission for much of the weekend. By the time we hit the area, it was clear and traffic was flowing both ways but Rob didn’t want to tarry (not that you are allowed – mudslides are not photo ops people) because confidence was low that the highway would remain clear for long between the heavy snow melt and the rain.
Riding through the mountains is slowly becoming less of a bum-clenching experience. Canadians don’t do shoulders on their roads as a rule and the mountain highways are no exception though the Coquihalla is a bit better. Between the tight curves and the knee-high concrete jersey barriers to keep cars from tumbling off the road should they hit ice or simply take the corners too fast, it takes a while to get over the feeling that falling is imminent. Couple that with the, um, exuberant, driving of a substantial number of drivers and it would be easy to succumb to hysterical passenger seat driving. As it is, I merely adopt my zen face and phantom brake when the need arises.
Penticton is a retirement/summer tourist town sandwiched mainly between Skaha Lake and Lake Okanagan. The latter is the home of the legendary Ogopogo, a Loch Ness monster relative that I haven’t seen on either of my trips. My mother-in-law is a very sweet and wonderful person who talks more than my five year old and laments her lack of cycling opportunities and buddies. Motorcycling that is. On a Harley. She lives in a over 55 only block of two bedroom condos that is just a few blocks from the downtown. It’s really very nice. A person could walk everywhere and given the lack of anything that approaches a real winter, I could see myself living there easily. Which is what my MIL feverently hopes with every visit we make. She spends a lot of time talking Rob’s ear off about the “wonders” of Penticton.
It’s not paradise though. I did mention it was a tourist mecca in the summer? They swarm and menace like hornets. The town fills to the overflow parking lots and everything that is truly garish, lemming-like and benignly evil flourishes. We could only live there if we lived outside the boundaries and had a Costco membership, so we could supply ourselves to outlast the tourists and not have to venture away from our cozy acerage until school starts up again in September.
There were very few tourists this weekend. May Long Weekend is still a bit early for the hardcore flip-flip and swimsuit as daily wear crowd. But the casino was hopping (yes, casino – what is up with the need to build one of those on every body of water in North America?), and the homeless were everywhere.
On my first visit to Penticton I learned that warmer Canadian climates had large populations of homeless. Penticton is part of the norm in that respect. They are everywhere and honestly, I don’t feel all that safe walking alone through the downtown early morning or evening. Perhaps I should be more charitable but most homeless are so because of mental health issues or addictions and nice as they may be, these are not little things and people have to realize that care must be taken.
Between the casino, the few clubs and the homeless, the downtown smells like urine. More so now that it is warming up. All the more reason to take off one’s footwear when entering homes. The soles of our shoes are veritable toilets.
Katy’s first beach visit was to Skaha Lake this weekend. She throughly enjoyed it. Ventured farther out into the water than I was comfortable and chafed herself good burying herself (with Rob’s help) in the sand.
“I am not going to bury myself again, Mama.”
Rob spent much of the visit hanging things and installing things and fixing computer issues. Number one son stuff and I have promised him that the most taxing thing he has to do when we visit my parents in June is hang out with my dad (and maybe help him sort through his menagerie of tools that have taken over the front of the garage since he fell ill almost three years ago now.
After Penticton, we headed up to Three Valley Gap near Revelstoke. It’s a family type resort of the non-stressing variety. There is a ghost town on site that boasts the largest roundhouse in North America with an accompanying assortment of decomissioned train cars including the infamous “finger car”. There is also quite the cool collection of mint condition cars dating from about 1903 to 1929. Fords mostly.
Nearby there is a place called the Enchanted Forest which was the brainchild of a woman who liked to create fanciful creatures and nursery rhytm characters out of concrete and place them in the wooded area around her home. Her husband bought the acreage area where they are set today and they created this fantasy land for children to wander about in, complete with tiny houses that my daughter delighted in to no end. There is a tree house that probably reaches a good three stories up and scenes from nearly every Mother Goose story I know. The only thing about the place that both Rob and I found odd was how surreal and creepy some of the creatures looked. Do you remember H.R. Puff n Stuff? Like that.
Aside from a bit of rain and mudslide alerts, the last leg of the holiday was good. However we all have sore bums and are glad to be home. (Oh yeah, and I smell like ass so I need to post this and hit the shower now with my apologies for not having all my links in yet. I will get them in the morning.)