The City of Arts and Flowers or

When I got up and went to the lobby for breakfast, I ran into the bikers from the day before. We commiserated over how much my rental car sucked and then I headed out. My first stop was the town of Lompoc. I discovered they were widely known as “The City of Arts and Flowers” so of course I wanted to check it out!

IMG_2888.JPG

Well, there might be one or two things I’ve enjoyed with the Camaro….

It was a lovely drive, spoiled only by the fact that I had to stop for gas and couldn’t get the door open so I had to climb out over the top. I’m not super graceful and there wasn’t a lot of clearance between the steering wheel and the seat so all the other gas pumpers got an entertaining show. I climbed back in and drove to the downtown area to park.

IMG_2913.JPG

One of my favorite pieces of Lompoc #streetart

There were murals everywhere!

FullSizeRender (2).jpg

Love how all of the murals had a Lompoc theme. Also, this town has a very interesting history!

I ran into another guy taking pictures with his iPhone and after the third time our paths crossed he told me there was an alley with pictures of flowers and a woman peeking around the side of the building.

FullSizeRender (1).jpg

Thanks for the tip, Patrick! This was my second favorite piece!

The next time we met we introduced ourselves. Patrick was in town visiting his in-laws and liked to take pictures of the murals when he was around.

IMG_2956

View my Lompoc #streetart video at https://youtu.be/QWHWYE5_hRo

I wished him well and headed back to my car.

IMG_2970-COLLAGE

Took a wrong turn and ended up at the same rest area as these beauties on their way home from a car show in San Luis Obispo. 

My next stop was the village of Solvang. My aunt Victoria had recommended a visit and she was right, it was adorable!

IMG_2978

So Dutch!

I parked the behemoth car from hell, jumped over the side (I was getting pretty good at it by now) and then strolled around the downtown area.

IMG_2972.JPG

Someone needs a Family Engagement Assessment!

When I found a bakery I went in to look for Princess Cakes. That’s the thing that is missing most from my life since the Swedish Bakery shut down a few months ago and I thought it would be a great treat for my sisters. Sadly, they didn’t have any cakes. I took a few pictures of the Swedish cookies for my friends back home and then bought a couple of postcards. It was nearly lunchtime so I went across the street to the Big Bopper and had a California burrito.

IMG_2981

On the one hand no Princess Cakes. On the other hand the weather. Plus they are still open. You win Solvang!

I leapt into my car and headed south to Oxnard. When I got arrived at my hotel, I called Sixt to ask about exchanging my car. They were not super polite and told me just to take it to the closest branch and exchange it. The closest branch according to Google Maps was on the beach in Santa Monica. In hindsight, I realize that seems like an odd location but I jumped in my car and headed out. The fastest route was inland and when I say fastest I mean less slow. As I approached LA traffic began to crawl and the temperature began to climb. At one point, I was sitting still, in the sun and it was 101. While that was a dry heat, it was still really fucking hot! I didn’t want to put the top up because that made getting out so much harder and I didn’t want to be trapped in there if anything went wrong.

IMG_3003

Melting…

Eventually I made it to the beach and had to stop and refill the tank. It took another twenty minutes to drive the last mile to the beach and then I realized the Sixt at that location was a desk in a hotel. I Googled it and the next location was about three miles away near Venice Beach. I kept going. Thirty minutes later I arrived at an actual Sixt location. Sadly, they didn’t have any cars. The girl working suggested I head to the airport location. “It’s only five miles,” she said.

IMG_2993

I kept waiting for everyone to leap out of their cars and dance so I could join in, but nothing.

Thirty minutes later I made it to the airport. When the guys working at the return car counter saw me climb out of the car, they were VERY apologetic! They hustled me over to the only bug left on the lot and told me to open the door a few times just to make sure it worked! I took the Pacific Coast Highway back to Oxnard and the ride was delightful!

IMG_3023

Kite surfers! Having nearly as much fun as me!

On my way to San Diego tomorrow to find my sisters!

Posted in Getting Around, Life Story | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

I Get Around

Work brought me to LA and since my sisters were gathering in San Diego next week I decided to take a few vacation days and drive up and down the California coast. I haven’t been to Hearst Castle since I was a kid so that was going to be my first destination. I rented a compact convertible from Sixt because Highway 1! My first task was to return the car I’d had for work, catch a shuttle to the airport, and then catch a shuttle to Sixt. That part went very smoothly, but when I got to Sixt there was a long wait. Then the guy that helped me conned me into a $10 a day toll fee and gave me a free “upgrade”.

The “upgrade” was the worst part. Instead of the cute little VW Beetle I actually booked, I got saddled with a brand new convertible Camaro. It was huge. I offered to wait until they had a compact convertible ready, but he insisted that would take hours. Ironically, I saw several bugs parked next to the big ass Camaro but at that point it didn’t seem worth arguing about. I headed out and immediately got stuck in traffic. It was over 80 and I sat in the topless land yacht and fumed about the 18 miles per gallon the fancy computer showed me.

IMG_2736

Sure it LOOKS nice. Until you want to get in or out…

To cheer myself up, I drove through Jack in the Box and picked up a couple of tacos. Then I took a short cut and ended up on the San Marcos Pass. I‘m not gonna lie, driving through the twisty mountain roads was pretty fun. I made my way to Pismo Beach to check into my hotel. That’s when things really went off the rails.

When I parked in the lot, I put the top up and tried to get out of the car. The door was stuck. I tried pushing as hard as I could. It was caught on something so it would unlatch and move about a half an inch and then give me a message that the keys were inside the car. I was screaming at it “I know they are, so am I! Let me out!” but nothing. I really had to pee and didn’t want to have to call AAA for the Jaws of Life so I wiggled over the center console to the passenger side. That door opened without any problem. I went around and tried to open the other door but still nothing. I thought maybe if I let it rest it would work later so I left to check into the hotel.

After I cleaned up, had an apple and a bottle of water I discovered that Hearst Castle had night tours with a bunch of costumed docents. I bought a ticket for the 7:30 tour thinking I’d have enough time to picnic first and headed back out. That’s when I realized I still couldn’t open the door to the car. I was tugging and tugging on it and still nothing. There was a couple of motorcycles parked next to me and a woman sitting on the back of one of them. I looked over and noticed she was watching me. “It’s a rental,” I said. “I think it’s broken.” She was very sweet and totally commiserated with me while I tugged and tugged helplessly. She told me the guy she was with had a shop that repairs big trucks and maybe he could help. We stood and talked while we waited for him to come out. When he arrived, she told him I needed help. He climbed in on the passenger side, beat on the door a couple of times and then came around to the drivers side and popped the door right open. He said there was a couple of pins holding the panel to the door and one of them was missing so the panel was getting caught and preventing it from opening. I wished them all happy rides and took off for Hearst Castle.

Halfway to San Simeon, I found a beautiful turn off with a stunning view of the coast. I pulled in and took a few pictures. Of course, when I finished the door to the car from hell was stuck again. The top was down so I just climbed in and pounded on the door from the inside  for a while. It didn’t work so I gave up and drove to the Castle. I parked away from the gate so people wouldn’t notice that I was climbing in and out without opening the damn door.

IMG_2739

Even these small beach creatures were like “Why is she climbing in and out?!?”

I was early for my tour so I bought a sandwich and some chips and went to the patio for a picnic.

IMG_2749

These birds were a little intimidating. I ate quick.

The tour began with a five-minute bus ride up the hill. The sun was setting and there was some fog rolling in so the views were very dramatic! When we arrived, our tour guide informed us we were guests of William Randolph Hearst for the evening. We were not allowed to touch anything or stray off the industrial carpet runners, but we shouldn’t be surprised to see other guests in fancy clothes lounging on the chairs or smoking in the house.

IMG_2788

Casa Grande at Hearst Castle. So beautiful.

We toured the Casa del Mar guesthouse first. The views of the sea were stunning and there were three elderly people in 20s costumes standing around smoking fake cigars. From the guesthouse we made our way to the big house. It was just as incredible as I’d remembered! All of the furnishings and art were original to the house (suck it Biltmore!) and there were more elderly people lounging around on the fancy furniture.

IMG_2800.JPG

You can just barely see the top of the little old lady playing piano. Which puzzled me since you could also just barely hear her. Still if things don’t work out at my current job, this seems like a pretty sweet gig.

The best part, other than the views, was the top floor. Hearst’s office and private quarters were magnificent!

IMG_2841

I’ve always said work would be better if I had some chandeliers to illuminate my work space. 

We watched a short newsreel in the theater and then went out by way of the Roman Pool. The ride down the hill was dark and instead of music from the Roaring 20s we hear Beach Boys. I guess they were trying to ease us back to the twentieth century. It was pitch black in the corner of the parking lot where I’d stashed the rental car from hell but this the door popped right open. Tomorrow may involve a side trip to LA to get a car that has doors that work consistently!

IMG_2771

Sunset at Hearst Castle

 

Posted in Bucket List, Getting Around, Life Story | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Exploring Arctic Transportation

Lisa and I had planned to spend our final day at Chena Hot Springs, dog sledding and taking in ice art. Sadly, we overslept and since we didn’t want to risk having to drive back after dark we had to scrap that plan. Instead Lisa found Golden Heart Dog Tours and managed to secure a reservation to go dog sledding just down the road from our hotel. We had a few hours to kill so we decided to drive out to Silver Gulch for breakfast and visit the antique car museum afterwards.

img_0046

We didn’t actually ride snow mobiles to get there. but we could have…

It was a lovely drive to Silver Gulch, especially now that I’m such an experienced snow driver. We made good time and found it with no problem. The food was delicious. I had the French Quarter (poached eggs on a crusty baguette, topped with chorizo sausage, smoked gouda cheese, and a spicy creole hollandaise sauce). Lisa had a skillet. Her breakfast was good, but mine was better! Silver Gulch is also a brewery and Lisa tried their IPA. I’ve given up drinking this month (and don’t care for hoppy beers) so I can’t tell you how good that was. She seemed to enjoy it!

img_0034

Lisa’s opinion was in no way influenced by the fact that she got carded. It really was good!

When we left, we drove back into town to the Fountainhead Antique Car Museum. This was another highlight of the trip for me!

img_0066

1909 Oldsmobile and a lovely matching turn of the century traveling outfit.

The museum’s owners are divided. One of them is passionate about old cars. The other one is passionate about old dresses. The museum had some amazing examples of both!

img_0063

1911 Oakland and a sparkly gown. Another one of my favorites.

And all of the dresses were displayed near cars from that period!

img_0074

1906 Cadillac and a turn of the century coat. And that hat! #want

My favorite was the American Austin.

img_0225

1934 American Austin, my favorite car in the museum!

But I also loved the Packards and the Hupmobile.

img_0103

The Packard

img_0122

The Hupmobile.

Lisa found an area in the back for photos, including a bunch of costumes! If you know anything about me, you know I love dressing up even more than I love cars!

img_0224

I need more driving hats.

We spent a little time in the gift shop and then realized it was already time to head to the kennels for our dog sledding run.

img_0208

I am such a confident snow driver now. This was no problem. Even in a Ford!

Tucked away down a narrow, snowy road we had no problem finding Trail Breaker Kennels where we were going to meet our guide. When they came out to greet us they told us they’d had a slight problem with a big moose on the trail and were running behind. They invited us into the barn to wait. Turns out, they were way behind! The tour before us hadn’t even left yet. But they were lovely folks so we chatted with them while we waited for their ride to come back.

img_0216

When it did, they loaded up and took off. We stepped outside to watch them take off and then went back in to wait. After another thirty minutes it was our turn!

img_0246

Lisa sat in the back and I sat in the front. Our musher was Laura. She’s from Milwaukee originally but has lived in Alaska for nine years. She was in the Iditarod a couple of years ago but it is very expensive so she’s saving up to try to do it again. She hooked up the team and then called out to them and they took off! As we rode she explained a bit about each dog. We got to the halfway point and Laura stopped to take a few pictures of us.

img_0258

And the dogs.

img_0260

Then she hopped on and we headed back to the barn.

That was totally the highlight of the trip!

Lisa and I both had a red eye home that night. The trip was fantastic and since I didn’t get to see the Northern Lights this time, I’m just going to have to visit again…

Processed with MOLDIV

My new favorite car museum!

 

 

 

Posted in Getting Around, Life Story | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

That Time the Asian Tourists Held Us Hostage

Our evening event was an excursion way up north to view the Aurora Borealis. Lisa was growing more and more concerned about the weather. It had started coming down steadily right before sunset and hadn’t let up. I still thought there was a chance the storm wasn’t as far north as we were going or that it would blow over. Hahaha, I had no idea what I was talking about!

The driver was supposed to pick us up at 8:15 pm. I rushed Lisa down to the lobby because I hate to be late and make people wait for me. She took her sweet time but I was down there promptly at 8 pm, ready to tell the driver my sister was a slow poke and would be down whenever! That didn’t happen since Lisa got there right on time but there was no sign of our bus. We were all suited up for a sub-zero excursion and it was pretty warm in the lobby so we went out to the vestibule to wait. As time went by Lisa wandered in to the lobby to chat with the girls at the desk and ask about our destination. We were headed to Joy, Alaska (which if you ask me was named ironically and those girls had never heard of). And our route was along the Elliot Highway, which the girls had heard of but wouldn’t even drive in the springtime because it was “too dangerous”. It didn’t seem like that was going to be a problem since by 9 pm there was still no sign of our driver. We decided to go back to our room and try to watch a movie instead. So of course, as soon as we got in and took off all our winter gear, the girls from downstairs called and said our ride was there.

We put everything back on and trudged back down. The driver told us he had taken his eye off the road because he saw to Asian ladies get stuck and he was trying to see if they needed help and then he got stuck too. While I appreciated his chivalry, I was growing increasing alarmed about our odds of surviving the treacherous journey on the Elliot Highway. But Lisa had already called shotgun so I thought “whatevs” and climbed into the back of the van.

img_9981-1

She called shotgun, fair and square.

Lisa chatted up the driver and found out why he was late and that we were picking up another lady at a different hotel. We would drive up north and then meet up with a group of people at the Arctic Circle Trading Post. We’d hang out there for a couple of hours and then make the trip back. She tried to get more details about who we were meeting and what we would do if the snow didn’t stop but he wasn’t real clear on the details.

We stopped and picked up Sharon, a lovely meteorologist from Tallahassee. She and I struck up a convo and I learned she had a cabin in northern WI she visits every summer with her son but this was her first time to see the Nothern Lights. She also said she’d checked the weather and didn’t think we were going to see anything other than more snow. The driver said he was a former pilot and he checked the radar for pilots and there was still a chance. It was too dark to see Sharon rolling her eyes, but I felt her.

img_9983

First time ever I’m glad I’m not driving!

We drove up some pretty winding, narrow roads. I can see why those girls at the hotel were hesitant to make the trip! Nobody else was headed in the same direction, but occasionally large trucks would fly past from the other direction. When they did the driver would slow way down because as soon as they blew past there would be a huge cloud of snow that completely obscured the road. I’m still really grateful that didn’t happen on any twisties.

Finally we reached the trading post. Turns out the warm, welcoming shopping plaza I’d imagined was way off base. It was a dark cabin in the woods. And I mean really, really dark. The driver told us to stay put and jumped out to unlock the padlock on the door and go inside. Now I don’t watch any movies that don’t have happy endings, but this seemed to have thriller written all over it! While we were waiting for him to come out, the passengers from the bus parked in the lot slowly shuffled off and started surrounding our van. They were just shadows from the bus headlights and they shuffled through the snow like the walking dead.

img_9987

Cue the spooky music…

The driver emerged from the trading post with a can of gas and then opened a cupboard on the side of the building and began gassing up a generator. He pulled out a few battery operated lanterns out in the snow and then went over to some sheds on the side of the building, opened the doors and turned on some lights. Finally he came back to the van, opened the door and invited us inside…

fullsizerender-3

Lots of furs, which is the only part of the “trading post” I actually expected to see.

The inside of the trading post was two large rooms and a loft. In the second room there was a wood burning stove and a lot of couches and chairs. I stumbled over to the chair closest to the fire. The driver came in and told us we would be there until 2 am. If the snow let up we would be able to go outside and see the Northern Lights. In the meantime, they had a lot of boiling water he’d brought up in the van and some instant coffee, hot chocolate mix, and apple cider mix. He also offered us all the Cup O Noodles we wanted. He said there was no running water in the Trading Post so if we needed to use the restrooms, we could use one of the outhouses next to the building. He spent a lot of time explaining the outhouse systems required that the top stay down when not in use. At that point I’d tuned out and went back to my book.

fullsizerender-8

Look at the beautiful curtains! Turns out all of the windows were boarded up. There wasn’t a single window in the place. If the snow ever did stop we’d never know it!

There were about twenty Asian tourists from the bus who were very excited to be there. Lisa told me they’d been gone all day and had visited the Arctic Circle. They were happily chatting and slurping down ramen noodles.

fullsizerender-7

Mmmmm Cup O Noodles on a bearskin rug. Now that’s Alaska!

I got some cocoa and pulled out the book I’d brought along in case we were stuck inside. In hindsight, I’d have been better off with a much larger tome.

img_9988

I brought this book from the hotel to save our lives.

I shared the best parts with Lisa and Sharon.

“Contrary to popular belief: If you encounter a bear or other wild animal when hiking through the woods it is okay to follow your instinct to run. Just remember, it’s not the animal you have to outrun, it’s your hiking partner.”

We all eyed each other carefully…

After a while Sharon announced she was going to visit the outhouse. I didn’t want her to go alone in case there were bear or moose. I was pretty sure I could outrun her and it seemed like a better idea to go along with some bait rather than on my own.

The outhouse was the most terrifying part of the excursion so far. Sharon hopped into the first one. I went to the second one but it was still padlocked shut. I went to the next one but the door wouldn’t shut. I ended up in the last one and finally latched the door. When I lifted the lid I discovered ice chunks on seat. There were helpful illustrations to show you how to use the facilities…

img_9992

I couldn’t even if I wanted to…

And interesting art…

img_0005

Irony! The frozen picture of the polar bear!

It was incredibly difficult to manage with my floor length parka and mittens. Somehow I managed. They helpfully stocked the facilities with some frozen hand sanitizer.

img_9995

Not super useful.

I stumbled back in to entertain Lisa and Sharon with more helpful tips from my book.

fullsizerender-9

Learning all we can about wildlife…

About 12:30 we began thinking it would be nice if we could go back to our lovely hotel suite and go to bed. I went to find the driver who was busy doing busy work in the other room. I asked him if we could leave yet. He said only if the whole group agreed. He was supposed to be there until 2 am but if the whole group wanted to go we could.

He followed me back to the fire and announced to the group that we could leave early if the whole group wanted to go, otherwise we would have to stay until 2 am. He looked at the Asian tourists expectantly. Sharon, Lisa and I held our breath. All of the Asian tourists looked to the older gentleman in their group who looked over the top of his newspaper, frowned at them and then put his paper back up and continued reading. The Asian tourists then turned back to each other and started laughing and chatting again.

The driver trudged out of the room. He didn’t seem any happier than we were. It was painfully obvious the snow wasn’t going to stop (Sharon the meteorologist totally called that one!).

My book was only about 10 pages and there’s only so many times you can read corny jokes and trivia and still be entertained. So we spent the last hour glaring at the Asian tourists who were holding us hostage.

img_9991

Looks like another hour of fun when we could have been back in our rooms sleeping soundly…

Finally, the driver came back in and announced it was time to go. We all bundled back up and lined up by the door. That’s when he told us we were riding back on the bus with the Asian tourists. Apparently the other driver didn’t want to stay and hang out so he’d taken our van and left early. We weren’t sure why he didn’t ask it we wanted to leave then. The driver said “Oh you would have had to make that decision much earlier” To be honest, we were ready to make that decision as he was describing the outhouses so that wouldn’t have been a problem.

We climbed back on the bus and didn’t even feel bad about taking up a while row each and making the Asians double up! I stretched out on my bench and took the short way back. I woke occasionally to peek out the window and see the heavy snowfall and marvel that the driver was still awake. Nobody else was!

fullsizerender-5

Making good time screaming down the mountain trails in the blinding snow on the big bus. Thankfully I slept through most of it.

Of course he dropped off the Asian tourists first. After they climbed off we commiserated with Sharon for a bit before he dropped her off as well. By the time we got back to the hotel it was 4 am and we were done.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Getting Around, Life Story | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Day I Drove to North Pole, Alaska

When I woke up, my sister was sacked out in the next bed, sleeping soundly. I tiptoed out to the couch to work on the blog but after a while my eyes started shutting so I stretched out and napped. By the time Lisa rolled out of bed I was ready to find some breakfast and seek out some adventure!

sunrise in Fairbanks

Watching the sun rise at 9 am from the couch!

When we went downstairs to the hotel lobby looking for breakfast and discovered the restaurant was closed for breakfast and lunch on the weekends. We thought about taking a taxi but realized that we’d need one everywhere we wanted to go. Our tour to the Northern Lights didn’t even start until 8pm and there was a lot to see before that so I decided to rent a car to make it easier to get around. We took a taxi out to the airport and picked one up.

fullsizerender-2

Becoming a snow driver. Well, a snow driver who is always aware of the selfie opportunities.

From the airport, we went to The Oasis. Our hotel staff had recommended that we check it out and order the Cordon Blue omelets. The food was amazing but the best part was the Touch Tunes Jukebox! While Lisa told me all about her amazing experience viewing the Northern Lights the night before, I entertained the crowd with a clever mix of Scissor Sisters and Rolling Stones.

img_9794

The coffee was delicious and the omelet was amazing.

After breakfast, we headed south to North Pole, Alaska. It was a short drive and the lame tires on our rental car made it very exciting! We slipped on the ice a couple of times, mostly in the roundabouts but eventually pulled into the Santa Claus House parking lot.

img_9805

Santa!

Before we went in to do some shopping, we walked over to the Antler Academy to check on Santa’s team.

facetune-3

Also at the Santa Claus House was the Antler Academy! With actual reindeer! And suddenly I felt much better about not eating the reindeer sausage at breakfast.

After that we wandered through the ice sculptures.

img_9821

Every day is a happy holiday in North Pole, Alaska

We were having a great time snapping photos there until someone walking by in an official looking uniform came by and said that they weren’t officially open so we needed to keep an eye out for heavy equipment. She said they wouldn’t see us so if we saw them we needed to get out of the way. She also told us not to touch anything since the ice sculptures were fragile.

img_9833

No ice sculptures were harmed in the making of this blog post.

We felt bad that we’d been climbing all over those things, so we turned around and headed back into the shop.

img_9930

Pausing for a picnic before we head into the shop.

Inside the shop, we picked up a few souvenirs. I got a sparkly reindeer ornament to add to my girl power tree and some peanut brittle made from beer for Bob and Angel.

facetune-5

Good shopping at Santa’s House!

Our next stop was pioneer park. Someone on Lisa’s tour had told her that the park was closed but still worth seeing and you could walk through it and take some great pictures.

img_0312

Pioneer Park so charming, even in the dead of winter!

Boy howdy were they right! We saw President Warren Harding’s train car from his tour of Denali and a street comprised of original cabins from the turn of the century.

img_9874-1

So many photo ops…

The houses were adorable.

img_0313

Kitty had a nice house.

We found bloody snow…

img_9885

Something bad went down here, you guys…

And bird art.

img_0314

I like bird art.

We walked around the giant frozen steamboat that felt strangely out of place.

img_9892

I guess whenever I thought of steamboats I thought of bayous. It never occurred to me they would be used on the tundra.

And then headed out of the park.

facetune-6

Pioneer Park was definitely a highlight!

It was starting to get dark and we had a tour booked to see the Aurora Borealis. Lisa was concerned that there was some cloud cover, so she called to confirm we were still going. It was still on, but not until 8 so we drove through the downtown area to check it out.

img_9897

Streetart in Alaska that just screams Alaska.

We popped into Fred Meyer to pick up some food to cook dinner in our fancy hotel suite. Fred Meyer is like the love child of a Wegmans and a Target. They’ve got everything you need and lots of things you want! We returned to the hotel to cook dinner and take a nap before our northern lights excursion!

Processed with MOLDIV

Plugging in the car because it gets chilly at night in Fairbanks in January!

Posted in Getting Around, Life Story | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Northern Lights Sound Delightful

My sister Lisa loves Alaska. She convinced me I should meet her there so I could check it off my list of states to visit (only four left), see the Northern Lights, and hang out with her in one of her favorite places. I’m always down for a vacation (and thinking of ways to maintain my diamond status) so I said yes!

img_9746

Could be worse!

Our initial plans got jacked up when I ended up having to go to Camden NJ for a day of training and had to switch my original flight. Lisa kept hers and went up a day before me. That was actually for the best since she was able to report back important information like how to get to our hotel and that they have homemade hash for breakfast!

So I spent the day in NJ, flew home, slept a few hours, and then caught a Lyft to the airport. My first flight was from Midway in Chicago to Minneapolis. In coach. When we landed I had 30 minutes to jog from C10 to F13. That left just enough time to pick up a sandwich and bottle of water.

On the second flight I was in coach again, though this time I scored an exit row seat and there was no seat in front of me. Initially this seemed ideal. Until I realized that my headphones wouldn’t reach the TV screen on the back of the seat that was actually two seats up! I gave up on trying to watch a movie and worked on a PowerPoint for work instead.

img_9751

Didn’t really have the long legs to fully appreciate this. Might have prefered a closer screen.

We got to Seattle and my next gate was fairly close. I wandered over and noticed the gate area was totally populated by rugged looking lumberjack types and young soldiers. I was already upgraded so once we boarded I took a quick nap. Lisa had told me to sit on the passenger side because I’d be able to see the northern lights from that side. I woke up in time for dinner (hamburger sliders) and then started looking out for the Lights.

I saw a lot of stars and I could see a greenish shimmer way out in the distance. It could have been that my vision is bad because the lumberjacks in front of me were really impressed.

img_9765

Approaching Fairbanks

When we landed I hustled out to the baggage area and called the hotel for a pickup. I was surprised that it wasn’t much colder than Chicago so I stood outside to wait. When the tiny little mini van pulled up, I learned there was going to be six other passengers. I’m considerate, so I climbed into the back row of seats, in spite of the fact that there was not even enough space for my short little legs! Another couple climbed in back with me. We all agreed that the 6’7’ guy should have the front and then two Asian ladies came out and took the spacious middle seats. I’m going to assume they wouldn’t scoot their seats up because they couldn’t understand my constant complaints! Thankfully it wasn’t far to the hotel. I jumped out as quickly as I could (which was last since everyone else had to get out first). Then I went inside to wait in line to pick up a key. Lisa had arrived the night before and was out on an Aurora tour.

img_9779

I arrived

She’d left me a few gifts because she is thoughtful AND fun. I put on the fuzzy pink socks and blingy pussyhat and crawled into bed. We had a big day ahead and I needed the rest!

img_9777

My sister so sweet!

Posted in Getting Around, Life Story | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Christmas in British Columbia

Christmas Morning arrived and so did a sweet little gift from the Hilton!

img_8831

A happy Christmas surprise from the Hilton

 

Breakfast in the lounge was a festive affair with everyone wishing everyone else a merry Christmas! Afterwards I bundled up and set out for Stanley Park. The most direct route was on the bus and took an hour. First I had to walk back to the Skytrain to reload my transit card. There was a Starbucks open on the corner so I popped in for a flat white and a boxed lunch, because doesn’t it seem like you should have a picnic when you visit a park?

I got to the bus stop a few minutes early, with enough time to appreciate how cold it was! The bus pulled up and was nearly empty so I got a seat at the back. Everyone knows those are the bounciest, hence the most fun. That’s also apparently where people want to sit when they do things I am almost certain the bus driver would not appreciate! As the bus got more and more crowded, some guy sat next to me with a pancake breakfast though he apparently didn’t get a fork to go with it. So as we rolled along, he would stick his hand in the container, hunch over, and shove food in his mouth. He looked like he’d had too much eggnog the night before, if you know what I mean! Anyhow, as soon as he finished his breakfast he hopped off. By the time we got to the park the bus was packed and we all streamed off to enjoy some nature!

img_8994

Bouncing around the back of the bus. Now that’s a party!

It was a lot colder at the park than it had been in Burnaby so the picnic wasn’t really very appealing. Also, all of the park benches had a thick layer of frost. I started walking around the seawall instead. The first thing I found was the Lumberman’s Arch.

facetune-1

Would have been more fun if there had been some brawny lumberjacks lounging around

 

Next up was the replica of a figurehead from the SS Empress of Japan, which sailed to the Orient from 1891-1922.

img_9003

Just past the figurehead is Girl in a Wet Suit, a modern-day mermaid sculpture from Elek Imredy erected in 1972.

img_8998

Luring the ships in

I was heading around the point when I noticed some amazing Totem Poles rising up a few yards ahead so I turned left instead. It was an amazing collection.

img_8909

Love these

I cut back over to the seawall and discovered a magnificent view of the Vancouver skyline. Sadly, the sun was in the wrong position, so it’s hard to appreciate it from my photos.

img_8928

I wish you could see how beautiful this was

I’d booked a seat for a 4:40 viewing of Rogue One and since the bus ride was an hour, I decided to head back to the bus station. I took the scenic route back to the bus stop, which involved hiking up some ice-covered slopes and past some trees that rivaled the redwoods in California.

facetune-2

Big tree

The bus ride back was very entertaining. I sat in the back again even though the bus was practically empty. The first stop a really smelly guy got on and sat next to me. My eyes were watering but thankfully, he got off about ten minutes into the ride. The next guy who sat in the back of the bus, sat in the seats facing me and slowly unzipped his jacket, staring at me the whole time. I was starting to wonder what was coming off next and then he looked down and a tiny dog head popped up. He looked at me again and began petting the dog and talking in baby talk. I assume to his puppy. He only rode along for a few stops and then he zipped up and hopped off. He was replaced with a couple of guys who seemed to smell OK and didn’t even look at me. I was beginning to relax and then the argument started. The guy by the window thinks family should love you unconditionally (agreed) and they shouldn’t threaten to kick anyone out ever (OK I can see that). The second guy sort of defended the family and said the first guy needed to follow the rules (makes sense) then the first guy went off on him, yelling “they yelled at me and they know I can’t take that with my condition, there can’t be any yelling any time. It upsets me!” The other guy said he was right (although clearly immune from his own rules). Then the second guy said that wasn’t why they wanted him out, it was his hygiene. This was sort of shocking but maybe that’s because I was judging him by that guy that got on first. When they left the rest of the bus ride seemed kinda dull, but the view was interesting.

IMG_9013.JPG

Canadians are tough!

Since I hadn’t had my picnic and it was way past lunch time, I walked through the Crystal Mall on my way to the hotel. That was no problem since they are adjacent and it also allowed me to get out of the cold! Turns out it was an Asian market. I walked the entire thing trying to find some lunch. Unfortunately, they don’t market their wares for English-speaking diners. I finally found a food court that had a picture of yakisoba right next to a bubble tea shop that had English translations. Lunch was amazing!

img_9006

Like a little slice of Tokyo…

Yesterday at the Metrocenter Mall I’d noticed the Silver City Movie Theater and booked a ticket to Rogue One. That’s when I learned about D Box seating. D Box seats are cutting edge theater chairs that move with the movie action. So, OF COURSE I wanted to upgrade my seat. Thankfully there was one left for the 4:40 show.

img_9015

Must find D Box seats in Chicago!

Believe me when I tell you, that was the most exciting movie experience I have ever had. When Jyn was running thru the fields the chair was wobbling left and right like I was running with her. When Cassian was blasting the stormtroopers, the chair was bouncing around all over. And when the rebel fleet was zipping around it took everything I had not to call out “Pink Leader, standing by!” I’m not going to lie, there were moments I was bouncing around giggling because I was having such a good time. I do feel bad about that kid next to me. The seat was $23 (Canadian) and it was one of the best moving experiences I have ever had #worthit!

 

Posted in Life Story | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments