Adventures in British Columbia, Part Five – Heading Home


On Monday, August 29th Jim, Pauline and I climbed into their SUV and began the execution of the plan Jim and I had put together several days before. He had a meeting in Comox so he offered to take me with them in the morning so I could catch the Island Link shuttle from there to take me to the Nanaimo Ferry Terminal. We had to leave early to catch the first ferry off Hornby Island. We were already too late.

We caught the second one, which took us to Denman Island. On the other side of Denman we boarded another ferry to Vancouver Island and then drove down the coast toward Comox, stopping for brunch at a beautiful resort dining room somewhere between Courtenay and Comox.

When we got to Comox we made sure we knew where the bus stop was for the shuttle. My phone data was all used up so I couldn’t check email or check in for my next day’s flight until I was somewhere that I could get WiFi, but I didn’t feel any urgency. Jim’s meeting was at 1:00 pm; my bus left at 12:50 pm. After running some errands and taking a walk along the boardwalk, they dropped me off at about 12:35.

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Plane coming into small Comox Airfield

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Boats along the bay at Comox

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Pauline with me

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Pauline and Jim

Perhaps I should have gone into the MacDonald’s to use their WiFi, but there wasn’t that much time, so I didn’t. Soon a young woman named Rose, who was headed back to University in Victoria joined me. We waited, and waited. By 1:10 we began to get concerned. I went into the service station to see if they knew anything about it. They didn’t. Rose looked up the Island Link website to get a phone number so we could call, but there was only an email address. What good would that do at this time? I had a reserved seat; Rose did not. At 1:20 I texted Jim to ask him to check with me before they left for home. At about 1:30 an Island Link bus drove in and dropped off some passengers.  The driver told us that our bus would be arriving shortly. I told him that it was supposed to be there 45 minutes ago. He knew nothing about it. He seemed to be done for the day and left.

To make a long story shorter, I’ll just say that Rose called her Aunt to pick her up. She’d try again the next day. Jim and Pauline came to pick me up and had to drive me all the way to Nanaimo, an hour and a half drive away. It was too late for me to catch the 3:10 ferry that I’d planned on, so the rest of the well laid plans also went down the drain. Pauline and Jim’s grandson Matt was going to meet me at the ferry at Horseshoe Bay and I was going to have him drop me off at the Sea Bus Terminal. From there I’d cross the bay and catch the Sky Train to Burnaby, where Ann would meet me. It was a good plan. Instead, we cancelled Matt and I had to ask Ann to drive all the way to Horseshoe Bay after work to pick me up.

At least this time I didn’t get lost at the Ferry Terminal and I had time to connect to the internet to do my flight check in while I waited. Once aboard, I found an empty row of seats, and slid over to the window. I was too stressed and tired to do anything but watch the waves roll by for a while.

An older woman with a thick accent, perhaps German, dragged her large suitcase into the row in front of me before she stood looking around and mumbling something to me, or herself. She said something about having to call her daughter. She caught a woman wearing the uniform of an employee and asked her some questions. When she was told where she had to go when it was time to get off the ship, and assured that someone would come to help her, she sat down and slept or read for a while. I was deep into my book when I caught movement to my left. I looked up to see her pushing her suitcase toward me.

“I have to find the Purser,” she said. “I need to call my daughter to tell her where I am. Can you watch my suitcase for me until I get back?”

“Of course,” I smiled.

She trotted off, seeming uncertain as to where she was going. I wondered if she’d find her way back on time. As I continued to read, I kept an eye on my watch. Time passed; my anxiety built. I had no idea what her name was or how to find her or what to do with her bag if it was time for me to leave and she hadn’t returned! Eventually the employee she’d spoken to before came looking for her, I thought. But she was looking for her suitcase. She had the woman safely in her office. Thank goodness!

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Ann arrived at Horseshoe Bay at just the time my ferry was docking at 6:30 pm. We’d both been up since 6:00 that morning and were anxious to get home, but traffic was backed up for the first part of the drive. Frank was waiting for us when we arrived at 7:45 and we all walked down the street to the local pub for dinner before Ann and I had to get organized for the next day (her for work; me for my flight) and crawl into bed.

At 6:30 the next morning Ann dropped me at the airport on her way to work. I had time for a good breakfast at The White Spot, which was just outside the Security lines. My first flight was to Calgary and took only 45 minutes. Before it left I got online to check my email. There was a message that had been sent an hour after we left Hornby Island the day before, from Island Link informing me that because of mechanical difficulties, the 12:50 shuttle bus from Comox had been cancelled and I should take either the 12:20 or the 3:20! I wrote back to say that I hadn’t received their email or text on time, and asked for a refund for my ticket. So far I’ve not heard from them again.

I had only a short wait to catch my final flight to Toronto, and it went smoothly, well except for the fact that I may have caught the exposed toe of a woman who decided to step into the aisle just as I lowered my heavy suitcase down from the overhead bin! Sorry!

It had been a great adventure and I was very happy to have seen so much of my family, but I was sure glad to see Jim waiting for me at the airport. As I opened my eyes the next morning, I wasn’t sure where I was! It’s good to be home…at least until our next adventure begins. 🙂

 

Settled Back into our “Summer Home”


It’s been almost a week since we arrived back in Hastings, Ontario. I apologize if any of my readers and friends have been concerned about us, since my last post was about the high winds. We did get away from there the next day, but poor internet connections prohibited posting pictures so I postponed blogging. Once home, there was a week’s worth of household chores, and of course we had to play some pickle ball. Activity was very much needed after nearly 10 days of mostly sitting in the motor home.

We did have a few adventures along the way though.

We got away from Clovis, New Mexico shortly after 8:00 a.m. and, despite the usual strong winds across Texas, the sun was shining and we made good time. We made one stop in Texas, back in McLean hoping for lunch at the Chuck-wagon Restaurant we’d visited before. We were disappointed to discover that, being a Wednesday, it was closed, so we pulled onto the road shoulder near the highway entrance and finished off some leftovers. We were once more struck by the desolation of the town, which probably had once been booming before the new highway bi-passed it. Beside us was what appeared to be a large motel, now overgrown with vegetation.

By 2:00 we were in Oklahoma; two hours later Jim was beginning to feel the effects of fighting the winds. We’d already stopped once to check the awning on the slide out because it was constantly banging, but it was just the wind playing with the spring. I found a KOA at El Reno, but it was fully booked. This doesn’t often happen this time of year. We moved on for another hour. I called ahead to reserve a spot in the Rockwell RV Park where we’ve stayed a few times, near Oklahoma City. The weather was much cooler than it had been last year.  We took a walk around the park for some exercise, stopping to see the Buffalo in the pen, before heating up the last of the chicken pot pies for dinner.

The next morning we drove to Bricktown, Oklahoma City in search of the Banjo Museum. We found a place to park beside the Land Run display along the River Walk. We had to walk through there again, and discovered many details that we’d missed the first time.  It’s still one of our favourite places.

To get to the Banjo Museum, we walked nearly to the other end of the River Walk and up onto the streets. Jim was following a map he’d found in a travel brochure of Oklahoma City, but it wasn’t quite right.  It took us some time to find it; however, it was worth the effort. Two floors displayed these beautiful instruments that not only are used to entertain, but are works of art!

Banjo Museum (1)Banjo Museum (3)

Gibson1EarlScruggsBanjo Museum (22)Banjo Museum (21)

When we left there an hour later, we returned to Jazzmo’z for another delicious lunch before getting back on the road again. After that, we focused on our destination – home. We stopped only for gas, meals and sleeping. The folks at the Cracker Barrel chain along the way became our best friends. Construction near Troy Illinois held us up for an hour, meaning we got only as far as the Casey KOA on day seven, but we sailed through Indiana and a good portion of Ohio the next day before stopping at a Cracker Barrel, where we always have dinner and breakfast in exchange for the privilege of staying in the parking lot for the night.

By 3:00 p.m. of day nine we were crossing the border into Canada at Buffalo, New York, seeing only a bit of snow in the ditches of Pennsylvania. While traversing the bridge the side mirror (yes the one that almost fell off on our way down!) caught in a section of the chain link fence that had been erected along the under-construction sidewalk, cracking the case and leaving the lower part of the mirror hanging. There was nothing we could do about it before we got through Customs. There was a big crowd of vehicles filling the lanes right back to the beginning of the bridge. A fellow directing traffic managed to get us across three lanes of cars to the Bus Loading Lane, where we had to go into a building to check in. While Jim answered questions I watched an officer come out of the back, take a look around with his hands on his hips and then retreat without a word. I could be wrong, but the dazed look on his face and the weird eyes made me think that he might be stoned. That could have been a scary thing!

Once we were back into Canada Jim pulled over to put the mirror back together, and a few miles later we stopped for Tim Horton’s coffee, and to change the phone SIM card. Then we were into the crazy slow Toronto traffic. It had taken us only six hours to get from Ohio to Buffalo; it took us four more to get home! The restaurants of Hastings were already closed, so I had to make us some dinner. I was tired and hungry, but it was good to be home.

 

HAPPY EASTER EVERYONE!

Get a Free Travel App and Hear About an Amazing Young Performer


There is nothing like listening to some great live music to take your mind off of the political turmoil for a while. Late Thursday morning we drove into downtown Mesa to do just that, at the outdoor noon-hour concert series sponsored by the Mesa Arts Centre. I think I’ve mentioned these wonderful free concerts before. The performer this week was highly promoted by our neighbour Jan, and our expectations were high.  We weren’t disappointed!

After picking up a take-out lunch at our favourite little café, Sweet Cakes, we walked to the Arts Centre to where the stage and seating were set up. It was only 11:30 and the concert didn’t begin until 12:30, but the best seating was already filled! We managed to grab a couple of chairs that weren’t too far away from the stage, but sadly not facing it. While we waited for the show to begin, we enjoyed our very thick turkey-on-(freshly baked) sourdough, side salad and still-warm chocolate chip cookie. Yumm.

At 12:30 the Honky-Tonk Rebel (a.k.a. Mario Carboni) appeared on stage with his keyboard and trumpet. With a bit of introduction, he started to play and he blew our minds.  This young man, who started to play at a very young age, had his fingers speeding across the keys in a blur; and then his rich country voice filled the air. The sound system was perfect; no problem hearing every note from wherever you sat. I wish I could remember all of the songs he performed, but I was mesmerized by those fingers on the keyboard. He has an eclectic play list, everything from honky-tonk country, to truck driving songs, rock and roll and classical. I’ve never heard “The Flight of the Bumblebee” played so perfectly and fast! He did many cover rearrangements and many of his own songs, with a tad humour thrown in once in a while. For a couple of numbers he played his trumpet and keyboard at the same time, without missing a beat. The crowd roared, and at the end of the one-hour performance gave him a standing ovation. The host invited him to do an encore, much to our delight. When the show was over, Mario greeted fans with a smile and a chat while we lined up with our newly purchased CDs in our hands, looking for an autograph. He’ll be on tour across the US and back up to Alaska, where he spends his summers performing, most of this year. Check him out at www.honkytonkrebel.com/    .

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Mario on the left with one of his buddies, Jimmy Phillips

Jimmy Phillips, former drummer with Merle Haggard, Red Simpson and several other “Bakersfield Sound” Country stars, joined Mario on stage for a couple of songs.

Concerts like this are just an example of things you might find to do in over 470 cities around the world using one of the popular GPSmyCity apps that feature self-guided city walks, allowing visitors to explore the best of the city on foot at their own pace. The apps are now available for both iOS and Android phones or tablets.

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Returning to Our Youth with Burton Cummings


 

These Eyes, Star Baby, Clap for the Wolfman – just some of the rock and roll songs from my youth that were belted out by 69 year old Burton Cummings and his band of sixteen years, during a fantastic concert tonight at this, our winter home, Mesa Regal RV Resort!

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Burton Cummings and his Band

Burton Cummings and his Band

The House was full, and I think the majority of the audience might have been Canadian. Burton was excited to learn that and “especially”  for us they performed Running Back to Saskatoon, and the one song that he said was the most often played on the radio in Canada during the days of the original band, The Guess Who – Break It to Them Gently.

Burton played the keyboard and sang non-stop for two hours, mostly doing songs from the huge repertoire of The Guess Who, but during a twenty-minute break that he gave his band, he performed solo, doing some songs of other artists from the era, such as Bobby Darren’s Mac the Knife, Gerry and the Pacemakers’ Ferry Cross the Mersey.

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They brought the show to an end with the popular American Woman and No Time, bringing us all to our feet with roars of applause.

Of course they had to come back out for an Encore, Share the Land.

This was all very exciting for me. I saw The Guess Who perform live in Toronto in 1970, the first and last time that I ever went to see a live Rock Concert until I took my daughter to see Bon Jovi seventeen years later. I guess I lived a sheltered life!

A Weekend of Music and Entertainment in Phoenix Area


It all began on a Friday night when our new friend, Mary Lee, took us to The Arizona Opry, which is located east of Mesa near the community of Apache Junction. We were ushered into a large hall lined with rows of long tables, clothed and set for the chicken dinner that was to come. On stage was a huge array of musical instruments, including strings, brass and percussions, which would be played for our entertainment when dinner was over.

Arizona Opry Stage

Arizona Opry Stage

Jim, Judy, Mary Lee at Opry

Jim, Judy, Mary Lee at Opry

At precisely 6:30 pm trays of filled dinner plates began to appear, and within thirty-five minutes all 508 guests were served a sumptuous meal of roasted chicken breast, baked potatoes, vegetables and rolls. The “Opry chocolate cake” that was already on the tables when we arrived completed (or started) the repast. Coffee and lemonade were constantly available from the moment we sat down. By 7:30 the tables were cleared, chairs were turned toward the stage, and the music got our feet tapping. The Barleen Family and Guests perform and choreograph fourteen different shows throughout the year. This night was a Variety Show displaying a multitude of talent and unbelievable energy. When the “Arizona Champion Guitar Picker” was introduced as the evening’s guest performer, he seemed familiar. Sure enough, it was Ryan Martin whom we’d first heard picking and strumming back in 2010 in Cody, Wyoming. What a pleasant surprise.

If you ever find yourself in this area of Arizona, be sure to pay a visit to Barleens Arizona Opry Dinner Theatre. You won’t be disappointed.

On Saturday we rode the bike to the North West side of Phoenix to check another item off our Bucket List – a visit to the Musical Instrument Museum (MIM). Little did we know that one day would never be enough time! It happened that that particular weekend was a special one at MIM, with a Carnival Theme. That meant the price of admission included not only the chance to tour the gallery and listen to samples of many types of music and instruments in the process, but we could choose to experience the spirit of Caribbean cultures by attending workshops, listening to live music in the courtyard, watching dancing and observing the colourful costumes. We could have had our pictures taken wearing some of these costumes, but we ran out of time! There was so much going on that we had time to tour only two rooms of the gallery, between taking in a steel pan making workshop given by master steel drum maker, Ancliff “Ansel” Joseph, and eating lunch while enjoying the courtyard entertainment.

Steel Pan Maker

Tuning a Steel Pan (drum)

Steel Pan Maker

Steel Drum Band Performing

Steel Drum Band Performing

Stilt Walker

Stilt Walker

We were given headsets for the self-guided gallery tour. Once we clipped them onto our pockets, we didn’t need to touch them again. Sensors placed at the front of each display connected with the headsets as we approached, providing us with the music and dialogue for each station, in whatever order we chose to travel.  We oohed over the beautiful guitars and music boxes, and found it difficult not to dance along with the music.

Guitars

Guitars

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Music Boxes

Music Boxes

We left at closing time, with a second-day pass in our pockets. We would return on Thursday to finish our tour, because on Sunday we wanted to experience the annual Renaissance Festival and Artisan Marketplace.

Sunday morning was a little overcast and therefore cooler, but by the time we’d reached the gates of the Renaissance Festival the clouds had moved off and we had to shed the extra layers of clothing we’d donned for the bike ride there. After maneuvering through the long but quickly moving ticket line, we were greeted at the gates by wenches, peasants, monks and lords. Inside we were invited to sit with the “Queen” and her court.

Entering through gates

Entering through gates

Received by Royalty

Received by Royalty

Besides all of the employed character actors in costumes, we were surprised to see so many visitors who melted into the theme with their own costumes. In fact there was a costume rental facility at the gate, and inside there was a store where beautiful costumes costing hundreds of dollars could be purchased for every member of the family. We strolled through the park, listening to buskers performing on renaissance era instruments, watched a stilt walker wander through the crowd with ease, and a vendor selling baked pretzels from a wooden rack.

Lunch

Lunch

We shared a huge turkey leg for lunch, watched a glass blower, and chuckled at the results of hypnotic suggestion at a Hypnotist’s Show.

Harpsichord Player

Harpsichord Player

Street Musicians

Street Musicians

We were amused by the variations on modern day carnival games – axe throw, star throw. We visited the vendors of jewelry, leather, feather and metal crafts. The pretty princess head dresses and skirts, hair braiding and pirate paraphernalia made us think of how much our grandchildren would enjoy this fair.

Then there was the King’s Jousting Tournament! We found ourselves joining hundreds of people in bleachers overlooking the ring. There were to be three competing knights and the crowd was divided into three cheering sections. Our knight was Sir Maximilian. He won many of the challenges, but was defeated in the end.

Maximillian

Maximilian

A personal challenge was issued for a fight later in the day. We didn’t return to find out the results. By 5:00 we were hot and tired and ready to ride home. It had been another amazing weekend.

Thursday we finished our tour of MIM, when we saw some very interesting instruments. I was especially amused by these bagpipes!

Bagpipes

Hmm. These bagpipes might be a challenge to play.

Bagpipes

BagpipesWe also saw how Martin Guitars and Steinway Pianos are made.

Martin Guitar in Making

Martin Guitar in Making

The parts of a Steinway

The parts of a Steinway