Thursday, June 10, 2010

Half Way

So, it's only taken me 2 weeks to finally get a moment to sit down and post to the blog. Sorry to all the peeps who emailed me. It's been an adventurous first half of my time here in BC and I simply have not had a moment to sit down and write. The entire first week we were here I had a terrible cold. What away to start my time here, right? I felt like my brain was just swimming in my head, and am so glad I am myself again!

The girls and I have been having a great time visiting family and friends, checking out the sights and enjoying the cooler weather. We have seen sun 3 whole days...but the rain hasn't stopped us from exploring, hiking and getting out and about. My Mom, sisters, niece and nephew have joined us on most of our outings. I think we might actually be wearing them out, but we are an active family as you all know.

During the first week we hit the Greater Vancouver Zoo. It's completely different than our zoo in Houston. Situated on rolling hills that cover 120 acres, the animals (including giraffes, elephants, hippos, wild pigs, cappaburas, lovely roaming peacocks, bears, herds of elk, bison, and deer) enjoy huge enclosures and the feeling of the great outdoors. The girls all rode their scooters and Cooper watched from his very cool stroller. We picnicked in a grassy area that was trimmed with weeping willows, fir trees, and a small lagoon. Juliane said she had dreamed about being in a beautiful place like that. And it was like out of a dream for sure.

We hiked several times to Bridal Veil Falls. It's a really short hike uphill to the falls and its been wonderful every time. I forgot how GREEN it is here. Like you are walking around in an emerald city. I can't stop smiling it is so beautiful. (Twilight fans, can't you just imagine Edward running through this?). The girls like crossing the little bridges along the way. The creek that comes from the falls is quite small in comparison to the falls itself. I imagine in the summertime that families who enjoy picnics there cant resist dipping their feet in the crystal waters.

I am also in awe at the height of the trees. The forest is so huge here. Look at the towering trees in the picture below. The kids look so small and it doesn't even show the treetops!

We have also been spending time visiting family. Next week we will be heading over to Vancouver Island (The Island, to locals) to spend Father's Day weekend with my Nana and Grandpa. We have been over to see my grandparents, Bob and Sheila and my Aunt Barb, Uncle Bob and Ariel on their horse farm, Rabbitswood. They have the most beautiful horses and dogs. I grew up on the same property and it brings back so many memories! It's very fun to take the girls there and walk them through the back of the property where we used to play in the forest. It seemed to me at the time to be acres and acres of land, but when we walked back there it was so quick to come to the end. Funny how things look when you are 7 years old. All the same wild flowers still grow all over. The tall bell-like flowers in white, purple and pinks, purple and white clovers (that I showed the kids how to eat), and fields of buttercups. One of the horses, Taliesin, was roaming around the yard while we were there one day. The girls were thrilled to pet him and he was happy to oblige. Grandad taught me to play Cribbage. I had always wanted to learn and got lucky and nearly skunked him on my first try! As a child my neighbor and oldest friend, Diana, had lots of adventures there. I took the girls over to her new place and got to snuggle her newest little edition, Brooklyn. Juliane and Sydney played with Hunter in the yard for a few hours. It was so great to catch up with her. We also took some time to meet up with another one of my favorite people, Jaida, for lunch in Fort Langley. We ate at the Lamplighter and then set off for a little stroll along the Fraser River. I am very thankful she made time for me before setting off on a new life adventure. With both Jaida and Diana it feels like our time apart was weeks and not months or years. So many more folks to meet up with and see again.

We couldn't come to BC without making a stop to Fort Langley, the birthplace of British Columbia. It took us forever to get out of the house that day, so we didn't get to Fort Langley until lunchtime. We enjoyed our lunch snuggled up by a fire in this adorable little cottage bistro. I wish I could remember the name. I had Siemens Honey Brown to go with my fresh green salad topped with candied pecans and goat cheese. After lunch and a stop at a quaint little toy shoppe we drove over to the Fort. The stars were aligned for us as we arrived an hour before the Fort closed and it was raining. This made for a personalized tour of the Fort. What an experience! We will probably never get to recreate our time there. We were in for a real treat when we met the Lady of the Big House. She took us in all the back rooms of the house. You know past those barriers that allow you to only peek into rooms. She showed the girls where the children of the home slept, and some of their toys. We were shown a delightful array of old dolls that represented the people who lived and worked in the fort. The Lady was so animated and told the girls delightful tales involving the different jobs that the people had. She finished off by asking us to sit in the kitchen (another restricted area) while she played a delightful tune on the piano from the old days at the fort. We all sang along. It was a wonderful treat. 
On the 3 sunny days we have enjoyed amazing views of Mount Baker and the Twin Peaks. I have been fascinated with Agritourism and have been taking the girls to different farms. They have divided the Fraser Valley into different districts with a map to the farms that offer tours and have shops to sell their wares. We've been to the largest Honey Farm in BC,and  a lovely Dairy Farm that is only minutes from my parents house and has the best ice cream. We've frequented the gorgeous park on Eagle Mountain. On a sunny day you can see the whole Fraser Valley from up there.

Last Sunday, my Mom, 2 Aunts, 2 Cousins, 1 Sister, 1 Niece, 2 Kids and I participated in the BC Children's Hospital Foundation Child Run. I ran the 5K with Virginia, Aunt Barb, Ariel and Naomi, while my mom and Aunt Barb (I have 2 Aunt Barb's!) walked the 1K with the kids. The 5K took us over many hills through Queens Park in Vancouver. It was very fun and a memorable morning. I am used to the fast flat races in Houston that I had completely forgotten about hills! These hills would be mountains in TX!

On Monday I arranged for all the ladies to go hiking with the kids at Lynn Valley Regional Park and Suspension Bridge. This forest is a chest full of treasures. This temperate rainforest has suffered a forest fire many 100's of moons ago. There we found huge hollowed out redwoods and the second growth beauty of Western Red cedar, Douglas Fir and Western Hemlock.The Lynn Valley Suspension Bridge began our hike down to the 30 foot pool. The map we got at the Eco Center stated that it would be a 10 minute walk to the pool, but it took us more like 30. That might have been because of all our stops to examine trees and rocks or to take pictures along the way. It could have been because we were hiking with 3 kids under 5 and my nephew strapped to Tara. Perhaps though, the Creator of the map forgot to take in to account the terrain. It was rocky at times, full of roots and hills, stairs and plenty of mud. None of which made the trip any less fun, interesting and invigorating. I think all in all everyone was thrilled with the experience. The Suspension Bridge was not as large as the more famous Capilano. Still, it offered breathtaking vistas of Lynn Valley, the Lynn Valley River and several waterfalls. From there we walked down via stairs and downhill slopes to the banks of the river. We followed the path until we reached the 30 Foot Pool. It was only about 65 degrees that day, but the pool still looked incredibly inviting. Had it been warm out, I would have been forced by nature to take a dip.

Well, that pretty much brings everyone up to date. Juliane, Sydney and I have really been enjoying ourselves, but we also have been a tad homesick for Texas. Sydney tells me every day that she wishes to go home to see her Daddy, whom she likes very much. And Juliane, although has been having loads of fun and isn't ready to go home just yet, has been wondering if the pool will still be open when we get home. For me, home is where your heart is...and my heart is with Paul in Houston. I am really looking forward to seeing him in a couple weeks and kind of kicking myself that I didn't arrange things better. I cant imagine anyone likes being away from their beloved on their anniversary and our 10th is this Friday. We have come so far from the days of long distance dating! Thankfully we have many, many more years to make up for 1 anniversary apart.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Canada at last!

We made it!

This 2700+ mile trip was not for the faint at heart. We made it with smiles on our faces and a new found appreciation for the distance between our families.

Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho and Washington were each diverse and magnificent in it's own unique way. The people we met along the route were friendly, helpful and hospitable. All traits to which we are thankful.

We actually are looking forward to the trip home. This time it will be a trip with exprience. Since we know what to expect and what we (and the kids) can handle it will be a bit more relaxed.

I have always wanted to drive across America, and now that I have I want to see more!


Well, we made it to the Pacific Ocean! Washington State is so diverse. I didn't realize how much of it is consumed by farmland. Much of it reminded us of Kansas and Wyoming.

As we crossed the Cascade Range We encountered the typical drizzly rain that is so common in this area of the Pacific Northwest. Some people might find that depressing, but after living in the tropics and semi tropics I welcome it. It feels cozy and makes everything so lush and green.

Today we lucked out because it is sunny in Seattle! We've stopped at Pikes Place Market for dinner and what a treat!! We watched the fishermen sling fresh King Salmon and tasted some smoked salmon. It's a really cool place to check out if you are ever here (you may have seen it on Food Network). Seattle is a cool city. We are gobbling up our dinner at a place in the market that overlooks Puget Sound. On the way in we went through loads of tunnels...some with houses on top! At the market you can buy luscious bouquets of flowers for only $10! I wish I could bring some to my
Mom but they won't let us Take them across the border.

Now we are off to BC!!

Missoula to Coeur D'Alene

Today is our last day on the road! We woke up this morning with a desperate need for coffee. After breakfast we grabbed a fresh cup of Komodo Dragon at Starbucks before hitting the road.

We sailed over the Bitterroot Mountain range unto gorgeous Idaho. I never had a good reason to come here, but it is beautiful. It's amazing how much the forests change from the Piney Woods in Texas to the northern forests of my youth. Twilight fans, be jealous!!! I get to live a Forks fantasy for the next month!

Juli and Syd had a great time feeding out of their hand some ground squirrels at a rest stop on the Montana-Idaho border. They were really cute, friendly and gentle...although I kept thinking in the back of my mind that they might bite and have rabies!

Lots if old mines line I90 here. Perhaps another time we will have to take a tour. I am sure the kids would find that very interesting.

Off to picnic by Lake Coeur D'Alene before pushing through to Seattle.

Yellowstone and Beyond

Today we hit the highlight of our vacation. Yellowstone. After we enjoyed a great breakfast at the hotel we set off down the Buffalo Bill Scenic Highway. It is just as Theodore Rosevelt proclaimed, "the most scenic 52 miles in America." The roads and tunnels follow the Buffalo Bill Reservoir and Shoshone River through deep gorges and mountain passes. The Shoshone National Forest lines the route.

Two miles before we reached the East Entrance to Yellowstone NP we arrived Pahaska Teepee, which is not a teepee at all, but instead the name of Bill Cody's original lodge. Now, it is a gift shop, restaurant, hotel and gas station. So we gassed up and bought some souvenirs.

It was cold. Not too surprising since we had checked the forecast. It was 27F degrees when we crossed into the park. The girls were delighted to see that snow (sometimes over a foot deep) still blanketed the ground. The one item at the last minute that I decided to leave in Texas was their snowsuits. Still we were able to improvise and they did have long johns on. They made snow angels and giggled in delight when they fell into a deep part.

Because it is still so cold, Yellowstone Lake was still frozen over. Just mind boggling since it is already late May. The Ranger told us that it was the perfect time to see Grizzlies, but we were not so fortunate. However in Hayden Valley we got to watch a coyote hunting some small mammal while the buffalos grazed and lounged nearby. They still look so thin from the harsh Yellowstone winters.

Inside Yellowstone you start to absorb the energy from the land. It was invigorating and is probably why we are all exhausted now. We saw gurgling and bubbling thermal springs, Roaring Mountain, Canyon if the Yellowstone, Upper and Lower Falls (the lower being twice the height of Niagra!!). There were Elk, Mule Deer, Chipmunks and Squirrels. And a special and rare treat...wolves!! The sulphur springs that create interesting formations in Mammoth were also a sight to see!

I am so thankful we are returning there our way home. We hardly made a dent in all there is to see and do in Yellowstone. I mean, come on, we didn't even see Old Faithful!

15 or so miles from the North Entrance we crossed over into Montana, our sixth state. Montana is another gorgeous place. Valleys and high mountains with lots of beautiful rivers. It seems like every few miles there was a public river access for fishing. We were reminded that A River Runs Through It takes place here. We crossed where the Missouri River Headwaters meet in Three Forks, which was also the birthplace of Sacajawea, Juliane's favorite historical figure. The Lewis and Clark Expedition came through this area with her guidance.

In Butte, we crossed The Continental Divide. Sydney could have cared less and Juliane was napping so that was more of a cool landmark for mom and dad.

So, tomorrow we make the last leg of our journey north. It has gone by so fast, it's hard to believe we are almost there!!

We wish you sweet dreams from Missoula, Montana.

Saturday, May 22, 2010


Wyoming is everything you think it is. Gorgeous mesas, endless grasslands, deep gorges, sky high mountains and abundant wildlife. All that and we haven't even entered Yellowstone yet.

Wyoming is incredibly unpopulated. I had learned it was the least populated state in the union during my trip research, but that did little to prepare me for how desolate it is on the plains. I can't imgine how isolated the folks are that live between Casper and Cody the winter. One can drive for an hour without seeing a house. Some of the "towns" only consist of a few houses in the middle of nowhere.

Yet I can also appreciate why people settled such a beautiful place. Wyoming has already become one of my favorite places which I know we will visit again and again.

Our final destination today was the Yellowstone "gateway city" of Cody. Founded by Buffalo Bill Cody himself this quaint western town has so much character. Shops sell western and Bill Cody items and restaurants feature 'Cowboy Cuisine'.

There us so much to do here that we could spend a whole vacation here,o but since we are just passing through this time we planned only one special stop. The Old Trail Town (unbeknownst to us, was right across from our hotel). The authentic cabins circa 1820-1890 that line the original town street were collected from historic sites all over the State. They boasted such famous dwellers as Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. More wagons than we could count filled the street and boarded the town. It was worth the stop and I can't wait to share the photos when I get to BC.

Juliane and Sydney couldn't wait to get to the hotel and go swimming, so we skipped eating out so we could enjoy the hotel. They just LOVE hotels. I don't blame them. This hotel is really nice!

I am so thankful that I plan for every situation. It is COLD! Bone chilling. The wind chill had us running for our gloves and toques. Tomorrow the lows for Yellowstone are near 20 degrees so I am relieved that I packed the winter stuff. The forecast is just as exciting as the trip itself. Snow tonight here in Cody and snow today and tomorrow in Yellowstone just add to the adventure.

I bid you all a great night from Cody!

Denver to Cheyenne

We left Denver with hot Starbucks and Micky D's in hand. The Band was playing on the radio as we cruised the Colorado farmlands to Wyoming. We bid farewell to the snowy Rocky Mountain peaks. We will see them again later today.

Well, Wyoming doesn't disappoint! Immediately we saw Pronghorn just grazing by the roadside. While getting gas in Cheyenne a little Red Fox hopped along nearby. Cheyenne is a beautiful quaint city. It is out last Starbucks stop until Montana. We love our coffee so hopefully we can find some strong java in Cody and Yellowstone.

Off to enjoy the Wyoming grassland and watchout for wild horses!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Wichita, KS to Denver, CO

Wow. I don't even know where to begin. We have put some serious miles between Denver and home. Over 1100, in fact.

Kansas is beautiful. Vast and spacious. So far it is the cleanest state I've been to. From rolling hills to endless plains, wind farms to buffalo ranches. It was what I expected and yet so much more. Tornado Alley only produced sunshine, friendly people, sweeping winds and the occasional tumbleweed.

Now we are well into Colorado. Sunny bright blue skys with fluffy high clouds. In the distance we can make out the Rocky Mountains, which will be our home over the next 2 days of travel. In a way we won't really leave their majestic peaks for a whole month as they will be in our sights for awhile.

Many of you have wondered how the girls have been faring. They have been real troopers. I guess most people wouldn't take their preschoolers on such a long journey, and if you asked me a year ago I would have laughed and said, "no way!" This adventure began months ago when we first decided to take this trip. The girls have been researching along with me and so have a sense of the distance and the sights we would see. They have been journaling by drawing pictures of the sights they've seen: the wind turbines, buffalo and rolling plains today for example. I will admit we've had a few moments (1 each day) where a certain someone was not at her best...but we recovered and won't let that ruin the adventure.

So onto the mile high city, where the swimming pool and dinner await!

Buc-ee's in Texas

Sent from my iPhone

Oklahoma City to Wichita, KS

Today we are really on the open road. What a beautiful and relaxing drive we are having this morning! The rolling Oklahoma hills and lush green fields have given us a new perspective on the state. Don't get me wring, I will never drive here at night again...but today is looking much better. Despite the bad roads, I have to say Oklahoma has a unique way to promote tourism. Every now and then we pass road signs announcing the next town coming up and what interesting things there are to do there.

We have decided to stick with our original itinerary even though our Garmin keeps reprimanding us for going the wrong way. Sometimes you just have to rely on an old fashioned map. So, Kansas here we come!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Dallas to Oklahoma

Pheuf! Well, we made it to Oklahoma! After getting a jolt of Starbucks in Gainsville, TX we crossed the Red River into Oklahoma. The sun started to set and we were entertained by the beautiful hills and plains that contrasted with the red sky. I didn't know OK had so many casinos! Gotta remember that for a quick getaway.

Unfortunately, the beauty around us was tainted by the horrible road conditions. What a contrast to Texas! I had the nasty job of navigating I-35 to Oklahoma City. There are NO reflectors at all whatsoever! NO street lights. I have to say it was terrible driving here at night. Besides that the entire stretch of I70 is under construction with most of it down to 1 lane! So far Oklahoma is not winning any votes for a pass through on our way home.

At the very least the girls were good sports. A little impatient at the end, but all our nerves were frayed as you can imagine!

So, day 1 is over! We made it through a tornado, Dallas traffic and navigating Oklahoma at night. I bid you all sweet dreams from "The Sooner State".

Houston to Dallas

We are on our way! 252 miles under our belts already. Hello Dallas!  

We passed the Sam Houston  Statue (1st President of TX when it was it's own nation) and stopped for Icees and spotless bathrooms at the famous Buc-ee's in Madisonville.

I drove the first leg of the trip and despite putting the peddle to the metal I didn't get a ticket. The Texas State Troopers are out in full force today. Love to see those tax dollars at work! So, with my perfect driving record still intact, I've turned over the reins to Paul. He promptly changed my news radio to his new Robert Earl Keen and has the cruise control set. I always forget about cruise control. I will have to try it out when it's my turn again.

In Corsicana we encountered our first "hiccup". We entered a super cell and barely missed a tornado!! Yikes. Check out the pictures on Crazy!

The girls have been totally chilling out. Just a few 'are we there yets". They've watched a movie, colored, made drawings in their journals, played car bingo and now are playing on their Leapsters. It's all good!  

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Ultimate Planner

I am "The Ultimate Planner". It is not enough for me just to relax and "enjoy the scenery" (although I like that too). For months I have been learning everything one could ever need to know about every mile of our trip. I find it a richer experience when I know if I might see Elk, Bison or Bears there. I enjoy it more when I can imagine a historical figure or event that occurred. Of course, it helps that the good old USA is abundant in history and nature.

I don't think it's reaching very far to say I got that trait from my Dad. I guess the history buff doesn't fall far from the tree. :) And now, I get to pass that on the girls. We have been listening to books on tape, watching documentaries and reading all kinds of stories over the past few months as the anticipation for this extended vacation has been building. They are so excited to see the many different animals in Yellowstone and fascinated by the mountains, forests and lakes. But more so they are interested in seeing the town that Buffalo Bill Cody created, or the birthplace of Sacajawea, where the Oregon Trail blazed its way west and the great Missouri River where Lewis and Clark made their expidition.

This is a trip of a lifetime. I hope it goes as well as we anticipate. If it does, we will traverse it again and again I am sure. Here are a few of the sites that we look forward to seeing on our 2,500 mile journey. As long as I have access to Internet, you will find pictures and posts here throughout the next week.

Sam Houston State Park
Tornado Alley!! (hopefully that isn't as exciting as it sounds)
Fort Hays, KS
Oregon Trail, Mormon Trail, etc
Independence Rock
Douglas, WY - Home of the Jackalope!
Cody, WY - Buffalo Bill's Town
Shoshone National Forest
Yellowstone National Park
Three Forks, MT (Sacajawea birthplace)
Coeur d'Alene Lake, ID
Pikes Place Fish Market, Seattle

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Mother's Day Camp Out

We started a new tradition last year (along with 4 other families) that we would go camping for Mother's Day. I imagine many of you are thinking that you wouldn't want to be camping on the day you're supposed to be pampered, but my feeling is it is all about the kids. I would not be a mother without them and a camping trip is a great way to have some fun family time without having to worry about my other domestic duties.

The weather in Texas in May is perfect for taking advantage of the great outdoors. Not to say that we were out in the middle of the wilderness. This camp trip was quite the contrary. The campground has waterslides, and pools, mini golf and...Yogi Bear! Yes, for those familiar with the site in Waller, TX, we enjoyed a tent weekend at Jellystone Campground!

It was the best Mother's Day I could have wished for. And I felt very pampered upon returning home when I got my first real shower in 3 days!

Sydney volunteered to say the pledge of allegiance!

One of the giant waterslides!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

First Signs of Summer

Summer comes early to Texas and the kick off event is the opening of public pools. Our neighborhood pool, among many others, opened up last weekend for the summer swimming season. The girls have been gearing up for it by taking swimming lessons at Houston Swim Club and were THRILLED when the pool opened up. What a fun day!