We have a year of travel. A year of new experiences, going to exotic places to expand our world views and open our minds to new possibilities of what life and society can be like. So, naturally, we headed to Canada first. When you try your first ketchup-flavored potato chip, your world view will expand as well.
We started our Grand Canadian Road Trip on the first of August, as the first of a month seems like a good way to begin something. It was a pretty soft start of lunch with friends in Corvallis at Nearly Normals. (What? That’s a real place, not just that booth I’ve considered countless times at the Country Fair and walked by the exact same countless number of times?) Then it was up to Portland for a beer on Hawthorne with a friend and dinner with my family.
The real adventure began the next day as we headed to Seattle. I had only spent a very small amount of time in Seattle – an evening during college, and a few days when I was very small. Bowen had never been there at all. But it is a place both of us knew was supposed to fantastic.
A few facts about Seattle based on our very limited and anecdotal experience: It is a beautiful city. It has a very neighborhood-centric orientation. There is good beer, and bars that actually seem like a place we would choose to, rather than be coerced into, hang out. It is bloody hot. That last one might not be true all the time.
We had a great meal the first night at Delancey, where Bowen has dreamed of going for a few years. We walked a lot. We watched the Olympics. We sweated profusely. (Seriously, it was really hot.) As a last hurrah we went to the Ballard Farmers’ Market on our way out of town.
After Seattle we headed up to Vancouver. Everything I had heard about Vancouver indicated it was going to be one of the most awesome places I had ever been. It may be. But we didn’t get a great introduction. Our first major act (after pciking up a bag of ketchup potato chips) was to take a walking tour of Gastown and Chinatown suggested by a guidebook. It turns out Chinatown and Skid Row occupy largely the same area, and the large homeless population of Vancouver tends to have a larger drug problem than other cities. And Chinatown isn’t even all that cool. As we walked to catch a bus back after eating dinner at a street fair, it felt like a scene out of a zombie movie as glassy-eyed figures stumbled about, seemingly with more directionality than direction.
The next day we headed to Bowen Island to see the place named after my sweet wife, which proudly proclaims that it is the fourth most artistic community in Canada (after Cape Dorset, Nunavut; Squamish-Lilloet, BC; and Comox-Strathcona, BC). We drove over to the very western end of Trans-Canada Highway 1 and took a ferry across. We spent the morning taking a bus ride to see most of the developed part of the island, hiking, and checking out shops. Then we had a nice lunch at a café before heading back.
We finished the day by checking out the Granville Island Public Market, and cooking dinner in our apartment.
On our final day in Vancouver we wandered around UBC, Stanley Park, Yaletown, and downtown. We ended up so tired that we spent a while parked in our car reading on a street in Kitsilano before we headed to a really delicious dinner at the Oakwood Bistro.
The next day we headed through the fog and rain up the Frazier River Valley towards the Okanagan. After lunch we broke through the clouds to drive through stunning mountain passes and grassy valleys into Penticton.
Our stay in Penticton happened to overlap perfectly with the Penticton Peach Festival. Despite its location in Canada, the entire Okanagan Valley is blessed with a very warm climate that lends itself to wonderful fruit production, including both orchards and vineyards, which produce world-class wine. The Peach Festival, once so rowdy that the crowd rolled the 12-foot-tall concrete peach into the lake, is now a very family-friendly affair. We stopped by each night for music and a bit of local fun. We spent our day there on a hike in the Skaha Bluffs (where we saw a rattlesnake) and wine tasting with our wonderful Couchsurfing hosts.
The next day, we headed north up the valley, and into the mountains…