Now, where to begin… Since our last blog (about two weeks ago) we exited our last long-haul train in Chicago, then caught the Wolverine into Michigan and finally caught up with my (K's) childhood penpal (23 years of friendship, odd to think it's lasted longer than most marriages in our generation!). Now the roadtrip towards the 'thumb' turned out to be slightly longer than anticipated. Taking off midday on Thursday we arrived in time for dinner and enjoyed the hilarity of 17 people (including six children) duking it out over three bedrooms and two couches. Friday turned out to be stinking hot and with nearly 20 people in one house with no a/c, you can bet it was pretty warm – just as well the house is by a lake!
We spent Friday lounging by and in the lake, relaxing in the sun warmed waters. Saturday however was a mad dash back across the state for the last baseball game of the season for my penpal's eldest son (does that sentence even make sense?), he was thrilled to have us there watching and cheering him on. Hauling ourselves back to the lake and to the family we arrived in time to meet and greet the last family members to attend the weekend gathering – a day ahead of schedule! Sunday was a family day and once again spent close to the water – mainly due to the unexpected heatwave that had hit Michigan.
Monday to Wednesday was spent back over the northern border at Niagara Falls, a great 'weekday weekend' experience that we shared with the R (the penpal) and her husband doing all the things you're supposed to do when in Rome… err… Niagara. Tuesday we took a gentle stroll down the hill towards the giant waterfalls and worked our way down to the Maid in the Mist boats, boarding one of the boats we sailed off merrily into the downpour. Never in our lives have we heard anything as loud, felt anything so misleadingly wet (it doesn't splash or try to drown you, it's just a thoroughly soaking mist) or felt anything as humbling as floating at the bottom of these huge waterfalls, listening to the roar as 150 odd million gallons of water flow over the edges every minute!
We headed back to Michigan on the Wednesday – 4th of July – and instead of staying at the lake for another night, packed up and kept on going back to our digs for the next ten days. The kids and their dad went out fireworks hunting, while the three of us collapsed and went to sleep. Not the most traditional of celebrations, but we were worn out after our 'weekday weekend'. The following weekend we celebrated no.2 son's 5th birthday at the beach on the north coast at Michigan's Grand Haven. 6 hours, several swims in the beautiful waters of Lake Michigan, a grilled dinner and a lovely touch of sunburn later we were headed home to make sure we were in bed before midnight, for Sunday was going to be a very long and special day! Rising and on the road by 10am (something off a small feat for us that week) we were headed to the 'motor-city' of Detroit and the baseball game I'd been waiting 18 years to see! Sitting up in the 300 section, with the sun shining down, a hotdog in one hand and an ice cold slushy in the otherhand it was hard to believe I'd waited this long to see a game I'd grown up idolising. We couldn't have asked for a better experience, cheering the home team on to an impressive victory, the locals being both proud and very loud!
Monday caught up on the domestic stuff that occasionally sneaks up on you when you're constantly traveling, three loads of washing later we were coerced into cooking dinner – something I was not allowed to do on my last visit over. But much like the ticking of the death-watch beetle, the hours were passing away before our departure from our friends and family. Tuesday came and brought with it the enevitable trip back to Chicago where we'd be flying out of on Wednesday, the only highlight for the day being the trip to Gino's East for the long awaited visit to the Pizza Legends! Wednesday morning came all too soon and we were feeling very sorry and sad to be heading off, yet excited to be going back to beautiful British Columbia and the final part of our very long trip.
Now if only things had gone smoothly, but wouldn't you know it, United Airlines just had to screw things up. We arrived in great time to the check-in counter, fantastic it's self serve, wait! WTF? It wants to charge us for ALL our bags, no no no! Before we left Australia we'd checked that because we're Air Canada we'd already paid for one bag each. So being charged for our bags was not something we were happy about. So we hop in the 'human' queue, where we'd stand for the next 75 minutes! Finally we get a real live human, pity the oxygen had been sucked out of her brain. Even though we provided all our documents – with the baggage allowances highlighted – it became all too apparent that the concept that a traveller could actually know how much baggage they'd be carrying, and that their plans wouldn't be changing seemed unfathomable to this individual, and so after 20 minutes of first patient, the somewhat terse discussions later we were charged for our bags – something that the travel agent has since been made aware of, along with our immense displeasure. Now, having spent so long trying to speak sufficient 'American' to the dense individual behind the counter we now had to hurry through security – removing shoes, belts and everything but our pants and shirts – before passing through the screening process. With steam pouring out our ears we almost dared someone to demand a further search, an international incident would have been sure to happen at that point. Fortunately that didn't happen and we made it through the process and trekked across the airport and reached our transit lounge with 30 minutes to spare. Canada here we come!
Totally confused by time zones and conflicting stomach rumblings (when was breakfast? Did we actually get lunch?) we arrived in Vancouver after a completely uneventful flight, the best kind! A short ride later (in a brand new Ford Navigator car) we checked into our hotel and dumped our bags, ordered room service, considering we couldn't even remember where we were or what time it was, and called it a day. Thursday we were up and at 'em again though, bought ourselves some tickets for a hop-on-hop-off bus tour and headed up towards Stanley Park. The bus rumbled along through the streets of downtown Vancouver, giving us a good idea of where we'd be trekking around until Monday. Once in Stanley Park we tried, and to some degree succeeded, get ourselves lost by searching for the Klahowya Village – a First Nations exhibit that this year is focusing on the legend of the Sasquatch – and enjoyed our time there, learning plenty and lightening our wallets some. From there it was into the Van. Aquarium to watch the Beluga's, Otter's, Dolphins and Penguins. Satisfied with our visit we wandered back through the park and boarded a horsedrawn trolley that would take us all around the eastern roads of the park. Completely exhausted we returned to our hotel via the same bus that took us around the city in the morning, we turned in with grand plans for the next day.
So finally today we woke up at the right time and made it out of the hotel before the first bus had had chance to go past. Hopping off at the Aquatic Centre and wandering down the garden path (feel free to giggle there) we arrived at the False Creek Ferry Service and caught the ferry over to Granville Island. We had intended to go straight to the Maritime Museum, but apparently we were too early, imagine our genuine surprise! We perused the food market on the island, eyed up a few things we'd later come back for and grabbed some lunch and breakfast goodies – for lunch, a wild B.C. salmon pasty that looked strangely like a sausage roll, and another of the same but in a flaxseed pastry, and for breakfast two smoked salmon and cream cheese on fresh bagels. Another ferry later and we stood outside the first maritime museum we'd be visiting during our stay in B.C. After that it was onto the Vancouver Museum before hitting the shops on Robson Street. Late in the afternoon we wandered back through Granville Island and the market picking up some amazing goose-liver pate and some incredible French cheeses for dinner.
Tomorrow it's our intention to… now, you didn't honestly think I was going to tell you, did you? Stay tuned, we'll be back soon!