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From Winter to a Tropical Christmas, and Back

December, 2018 – January, 2019

Our daughter, Rachael, and her family, are world travellers.  In 2018 alone, they have been to Paris, to the Manitoba Interlake, to Australia and New Zealand, and to Singapore.  Not bad.  And they invited us to go with them to Hawaii for Christmas.  We said, “Sure!  Let’s do it!”

Now, on her recent visit to Manitoba’s Interlake, Rachael brought along Lola, her dog – a four-pound Pomeranian.  And, realizing that there were logistics that would prohibit her from taking Lola to New Zealand – a trip that was to happen the next week – she left her with us.  Doting grandparents?  Dotards?  Your call.

So, this plan emerged: Heather and I would keep the dog with us, until mid-December, then we would drive, with her, to California.  After a few days of family visiting, we would all climb into a Hawaiian Air airplane, and go to Kona, on Hawaii’s Big Island.  The dog wouldn’t come – but she loves a certain dog-sitter in Sacramento.  Anyway, the Christmas trip will only be for a few days.

After Christmas, we would return to California from Hawaii, and, after a few more days’ of visiting, Heather and I would climb into our trusty vehicle and begin the drive back to the land of winter.

Some years ago, we decided that driving from Winnipeg to British Columbia, then going down the Pacific coast, to Sacramento, in the U.S.A., was a good idea.  There were many reasons: this route doesn’t add too many kilometres to the trip; in winter, the Trans-Canada Highway is very well maintained and driveable; AND we get to have a brief visit with our son, Christopher, and his family, in Vernon, B.C.

So that is the plan that we followed.  If you read the following trip log, you can travel along with us in your imagination.

The links below will take you to any specific segment that you might want to explore.  As a bonus, there is a photo album.

Quick links:

Photo Album

December 13

On this, our last day in Winnipeg, Heather had an office Christmas party to attend in the morning.  I drove her to work, and in due course, the lawyers and staff went, first to an “escape room,” 1 for a bit of mental fun, and then to a restaurant for a luncheon.  I, meanwhile, proceeded to drive some friends to the airport (they were off on a brief holiday, visiting family), and then I returned to the apartment to load up the car, and make sure everything was ship-shape for a month’s absence.  The plan was that, once everything was ready, I would go to the restaurant where Heather and her associates were concluding their lunch, pick up my wife, and without returning to our apartment, head out of town.

So that is what I did.  I arrived at the restaurant, chatted briefly with a table-full of lawyers, helped Heather on with her coat, said goodbye to everyone, and got into the car.  We drove off, heading west.

Only trouble? Heather forgot her briefcase – containing her computer and tablet and important documents!  It was in a colleague’s car – from when Heather was driven to the “escape room,” and the restaurant!  We had been driving for about fifteen minutes when Heather realized what had happened.  So, I turned the car around, and back we went.  We retrieved the briefcase, introduced the dog to Heather’s colleagues (who exclaimed over her cuteness), and set out once more.

The dog?  Yes, we’ve been dog-sitting Lola, Rachael’s tiny little Pomeranian, and are now in the process of delivering the creature back to California.

By 8:00 PM we had arrived at the home of some good friends, in Indian Head, Saskatchewan, where we were treated to a delicious dinner and good friendship! What’s not to like!?

December 14

After a good night’s sleep at our friends’, and a conversation-filled breakfast, we left Indian Head and headed West once more.  Eight and a half hours later, we arrived at a Calgary hotel, where we very happily brought the car to a stop.  The dog is being very well-behaved.

A piece of trivia: my GPS device says that it is exactly 1,000 kilometres from downtown Winnipeg to the Saskatchewan/Alberta border, following Highway 1 (the Trans-Canada).

The thing that impresses me most about this trip, so far, is the weather: this is DECEMBER, good gracious, and this afternoon in W. Saskatchewan, the temperature outside the car went up to 6°C!!!  Whaattt???!!??  But luckily the sky was clear and the sunshine bright – so there was zero ice on the road.

Oh yes, and there is a wind-storm weather event happening in B.C. – which we felt quite a bit in Eastern Alberta.  The car was severely buffeted, but no highway transports toppled in our path.

December 15

We woke up this morning in a Calgary hotel, did some errands, and then pointed the car towards the Canadian Rockies.  There began one of the most beautiful drives available to anyone, anywhere.  Snow, on trees and mountain peaks, glimmered white in the bright sunshine; the mountains themselves were majestic... and the drive along the highway was... good.  For the most part the road surface was grippy, but there were slushy bits, and occasionally packed snow.  Our most stupid mistake?  When we gassed up in Canmore, AB, we put the car through a carwash.  Right.  At the end of the day, here in Vernon, B.C., it looks like we gave it a mud bath!!!

But we made it to Vernon without serious incident – though we passed one dreadful accident, possibly a fatality, in the lane going the other way! There were police, and first responders, and traffic backed up for kilometres!

In Vernon, we checked into a pet-friendly hotel, and then had a delightful visit and dinner with oldest son, Chris, and his family.  We’ll attend the service at his church tomorrow (he’s preaching, which is a bonus), then take them to a steak restaurant in the evening.  Our journey continues on Monday.

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December 16

We’ve had a full day in Vernon, and it’s been quite a pleasure to take a one-day break from hour after hour of driving!  In the morning, we went to church at All Saints’, Vernon, where Chris preached.  There was one point in his sermon when you could have heard a pin drop – everyone in the church was totally focussed on what Chris was saying.  Apparently there had been a funeral in the church on Friday, for someone who had been a vital part of the congregation – and Chris was talking about the sense of faith that was present in the church during that funeral.  Sorrowful things happen to people of faith, as to anyone, he said – faith is not an escape from the troubles of life; but the person of faith has a depth and quality, in their response to trouble, that is notable and memorable.  The intensity in the air as Chris said this, felt, to me, like a warm affirmation from his hearers.

Chris had a very full day: three worship services in the morning (we attended the third), and then a service of Lessons and Carols mid-afternoon.  Fortunately for him, he did not have to preach at this fourth event, so at mid-day he was fairly relaxed, and joined us for lunch at a restaurant.  We had a wonderful catch-up – developments galore, in family and church and music.  Then, Chris returned to the church, and Heather and I returned to our motel.

Speaking of the motel, I really enjoyed getting to know the young manager of the place – a be-turbanned Sikh who is in Canada on his own, though he has an uncle who is a police officer with the Winnipeg Police.  He taught me a lot about Sikh culture and custom.

At 5:30 PM, we went with Chris, and his wife and daughter, to an upscale restaurant (our treat) where family visiting continued with lots of laughter, and some serious personal catch-up, as well.

Eventually, Heather and I returned to our motel, where we found that Lola, the tiny dog, had behaved herself admirably.  She did, however, welcome us with such intensity that it was clear that she had very much missed her human "grandparents"!

December 17

We left our motel at 9:15 AM, and were soon at Chris’ breakfast table being treated to a hearty meal of eggs on home-made toast.  And, since Chris’ dog, Taji, 2 was outside, we were able to bring the mini-dog, Lola, inside with us.  She explored the place eagerly (and we are certain that Taji will be both fascinated and mystified by the doggie-smells that somehow appeared in her home).

Then once again we were on the road.

And, we had a decision to make: Google Maps suggested that, for us to get to Sacramento from Vernon, it would take almost exactly the same amount of driving time, whether we went the long way, at high speeds on multi-laned superhighways, down along the Pacific coast, or the more direct and much shorter route, driving more slowly along two-lane bi-directional roads, far inland.  We chose the latter.

And this proved to be a blessing, because, down along the coast there were high winds and heavy rain, while deep in the interior, although the skies were cloudy, roads were dry, visibility was good, and there was not much traffic.  And the scenery in the Okanagan wine country and the Columbia River valley was spectacular!  It was a very relaxed and pleasant day of driving.  We were, in fact, the only car going through the border entry point - where a pleasant and smiling U.S. Border Services officer checked our papers and welcomed us to his country.

We stopped soon after dark, in the town of Wenatchee, in the State of Washington.

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December 18

What a contrast!  First, almost five hours of driving through a vast wilderness, as the only car to be seen for miles in either direction; then, as we approached the city of Madras, Oregon, finding ourselves in bumper-to-bumper traffic, under pouring rain and in pitch darkness, for close to 60 kilometres.  You cannot imagine my relief when we pulled into our motel.

I have never driven this route before – and I enjoyed those first five hours hugely – wide valleys filled with fruit and wine agriculture, desert vistas, and snow-capped mountains, all under a constantly changing and infinite sky.

As well as driving at speed on unfamiliar roads in the dark and rain, our day had other, more sombre, overtones, as Heather got some stressful news from her office about certain of her files, and, more concerning, learned from her family that her 100 year-old mother’s health is failing.  The truth is, in both cases, things are under control – people are doing what they should do – but it’s hard for her to be so far away when important things are happening.

Tonight, we’re staying in the town of Bend, Oregon – our son-in-law, Michael, says the town is known for its beer, but I didn’t have any – and after a good sleep, we will drive the last leg of our outward bound journey, and will arrive, at last, at Rachael and Michael’s home in Sacramento, California.

December 19

At 4:28 AM, with us sound asleep in our motel room, Heather’s cellphone rang.  It was her sister and her niece, to say that Heather’s 100 year-old mother had just died.  We had had a couple of days’ notice that the end was near, so this was not a surprise.  And, as far as anyone could tell, death had come quietly and peacefully.  We all had prayers together over the phone, and eventually disconnected, assured that all practical arrangements would be properly taken care of.  Richard Rosin, who is a funeral director and our dear friend, would make sure of that.  Later in the day, after further phone conversations, it was decided that Heather would not break up our travels to return to Winnipeg.  A formal memorial will take place some time in the New Year.

So the trip continued today, and shall continue as originally planned.

We drove from Bend, Oregon, to our daughter’s home in Sacramento, and thus brought the first phase of our journey to a successful conclusion.  There was a delightful re-connection with Annabelle Jane, our eighteen month-old grandaughter.  As well, Lola, the mini-dog, who had travelled with us so successfully, ran around and around in her true home, like a dog possessed.  Now all is quiet, and I can update this log.

The highlight of today’s drive was our first sight of Mount Shasta – at 4,321.8 metres (14,179 feet), it is glorious to behold.  Heather took the attached photo from our moving vehicle, as we drove Highway 97, when the mountain was still 75 km (50 mi.) away.

View of Mount Shasta, snow-covered, in the distance
Mount Shasta, in Northern California

So, we’ve now come to a stop, and will remain in Sacramento, happily visiting with Rachael and Michael and Elle (and Lola the dog), until Sunday, December 23, when we will all fly to Hawaii.

According to my GPS device, we have driven 3,609.4 kilometres from Winnipeg to Sacramento, with 38 hours and 27 minutes, of driving time, averaging 94 kilometres an hour.  We’re quite glad to be stopped.

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December 21

I’m enjoying a couple of quiet days at Rachael and Michael’s home in Sacramento, California, doing nothing more strenuous than hanging around on FaceBook, catching up with the news (as usual, it’s all bad), and coding this travel weblog.

Heather, who is hard-wired to be a helpful Nana, has done dishes, and laundry, has tidied up the house for guests, made shortbread – and has spent tons of quality time with Elle, our cute, but strong-minded granddaughter.  I play with the child, myself, from time to time.  She and I tell each other “jokes,” which mostly means making faces at one another.  Elle can form a few words, but she is not yet truly verbal, in the sense of “telling” actual jokes.  Nonetheless, she has an infectious laugh, and loves to mug her Grandad.

December 22

At first sight, the photo below looks like it should be captioned, “Screen Time!” but that would not be correct.  Look carefully between Heather and Tony: there is a black, curly-haired dog, named “Smokey,” snoozing on the sofa beside Heather.  Now, look beside Tony: there you can see the mini-dog, Lola, snoozing amidst Tony’s wires and electronics.  The image must be captioned, “Two Dogs and Their Humans.”  Rachael and Michael are dog-sitting Smokey, prior to our departure for Hawaii, and both dogs think that being on the couch beside the grandparents is the best thing ever.  At night, though, Smokey sleeps on Rachael and Michael’s bed, with them.  Lola sleeps on our bed, with us.

Heather and Tony, seated, with laptops and two dogs.
Two Dogs and Their Humans

An Early Christmas

Rachael, Elle, and Michael in Christmas Onesies.
Christmas Onesies!

Living in hotel rooms in Hawaii, there will be no way for us to have an old-fashioned Christmas tree surrounded by wrapped gifts on December 25th.  So... that’s what we had today, in Rachael and Michael’s Sacramento home!  There were stockings, and gifts galore.  As well, some of us decided to dress, rather uniquely, for the occasion.  The bear – printed all over their “onesies” – is a symbol, or icon, of the State of California.  On the derrière of these “onesies” is a bright red flap, with the words, “Bear Bum.”

Other than the morning, spent around the tree, with two dogs, an eighteen-month-old, and wrapping paper, our day has been quite quiet.  Soon, Michael’s father and sister will arrive, and at 4:45 in the morning, the whole lot of us will go to the airport and board a plane for Hawaii.

December 23

Today was a day of travel.  We flew from Sacramento, California, to Kailua-Kona, on Hawaii’s “Big Island.”

Michael’s dad and sister had arrived, as expected, late yesterday evening, and we were all awake, and ready to roll, at 4:00 AM.  Heather and I took the two dogs out for some exercise (a dog-sitter would arrive to care for them later in the day), then we all piled into a van and made our way to the Sacramento airport.

There, in due course, we boarded a Hawaiian Airlines aircraft, and by 7:00 AM, were in the air, on our way to Honolulu.  It was a six hour flight.  In Honolulu we changed planes, and and took off once more, flying to the town of Kailua-Kona, on the southwest edge of the Island of Hawaii – the island with the largest active volcano in the world.

Are we crazy?  Probably, but so are a lot of other people.  Kailua-Kona is chock-full of people, both residents and tourists, seemingly oblivious to the fact that there were murderous lava-outbreaks on the island only six months ago! 3

So, at the Kailua-Kona airport, we picked up the rental cars that Michael had pre-arranged for us (the three households – Rachael, Michael and the baby; Michael’s dad and sister; and Heather and I – will live this week at separate locations, and each will have their own car).  Then we all drove to the Harbor House restaurant, known to Michael and Rachael from previous visits, and enjoyed dinner at an open-air table, luxuriating in the mild tropical air.

Finally, the three households went their separate ways.  With the help of “Lisa,” our GPS device, Heather and I easily found our AirBnB, and checked in.  It’s a lovely second-storey apartment; clean, well-equipped, and has both air conditioning and beautiful cross-breezes.  Heather loves it.

After unpacking, we found a grocery store, and stocked up (we’ll eat breakfast and lunch in our own place most days, and get together with the others for restaurant dinners).

And so, here we are in Hawaii.  The sun has set, and we expect to sleep deeply through the tropical night.

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December 24
Christmas Eve

This morning we woke up, after nearly ten hours’ sleep, and made breakfast.  Heather, being anxious to explore, urged me to get in the car and take her to look for a fabric shop and a coffee plantation that she had learned about in some tourist brochures.  When I checked maps, and found that these items were in Kealakekua, close to Christ Church Episcopal, I figured we could check out the church as well as doing the things that Heather wanted to do.

It is Christmas, after all!  The one thing that I absolutely must do at Christmas, is go to church.  I could attend any church that offers a service in celebration of Christ’s birth, but it would be nicest if I could find an Anglican church (“Episcopal” in the U.S.A.).  I had found Christ Church online, but there was no information about service times, other than regular Sunday services.  But... if we could drive by the place, perhaps there would be a notice on an outdoor sign???

So, off we went.  Our first stop was Kona Joe’s – a coffee plantation.  We had a cup of coffee on an outdoor patio overlooking an amazing view of the Big Island shoreline.  Incidentally, I read, there, an informative placard outlining the hypothesis that the phrase, “a cup of Joe,” comes from the fact that, in 1914, the U.S. Secretary of the Navy, Admiral Josephus “Joe” Daniels, abolished alcohol on U.S. Navy ships, so that coffee, now the only thing they could have for social drinking, became “joe.”  A nice bit of trivia.

Next, we found the fabric shop, where Heather coveted, but did not buy, some taffeta material.  That shop also sold flip-flops, so I bought myself a pair, thinking that, because this evening’s planned “Luau” would be on a beach, I should wear them rather than my regular black runners.  Also, flip-flops might be cooler.  Many people here wear them on a daily basis.

However, it turns out that buying the things was a bad decision.  I had only worn my new flip-flops a few minutes when the space between my toes, where the thong goes through, began to hurt like the dickens.  In the end, I wore my runners to the Luau, and that worked well, because, although the event was indeed on the ocean shore, it took place on a stone patio, not sand.

But the Luau came much later, at the end of the day.  After visiting the fabric shop, we went to find Christ Church.  Interestingly, as we were on our way, someone from the church actually phoned me, in response to a voice-mail that I had left.  And, she told me that, sadly, the only Christmas services they have, would take place today, Christmas Eve, in the late afternoon, when we would be at the Luau.  Nothing tomorrow?  “Father Brown has to leave the island tomorrow morning!” said the voice on the phone.

Nonetheless we continued our drive to the church, where we walked around the grounds and took pictures (it’s very pretty).  But, since I believe that attending church is the only essential for my observance of Christmas, with no service available there, we have decided to attend a somewhat distant Episcopal church tomorrow morning.  They have an excellent and well-maintained website which promises a nice service Christmas morning at 9:00 AM.  We’ll have to leave at 8:00 AM to get there, but we can do that.

Following our exploration of little Christ Church, we went back to our AirBnB and relaxed for an hour.  Then we went to Rachael and Michael’s hotel.  Santa Claus was supposed to arrive there, by canoe, and Annabelle Jane’s parents were determined that she be once more photographed on the knee of the fat old myth.  We missed his arrival (“Santa” was early) but we were there in time for Elle’s visit to his lap – something of which she mightily disapproves.  She does not “do” Santa Claus.

Then, off to the Luau.  It was a long session, but the music and display of cultural dance (including fire-eating) was exceedingly professional.  I liked it.  No, I would not deliberately go to a Luau, but I’m not at all sorry to have gone with family to this one.

Oh, and “Santa” dropped in!  Given that 7:00 PM in Hawaii is pretty much midnight, or early Christmas morning, in the rest of the world... perhaps he had finished dropping down a million chimneys...?  Anyway, he came into the lagoon on a canoe, wearing his grass skirt....  There weren’t a lot of children at this event, but maybe all those grown-up tourists “believe” in Santa?  Who knows!?  Anyway, our Annabelle Jane didn’t approve.  However, she did like the show which followed Santa’s visit, with the pretty ladies dancing on the stage, and the men who leaped and jumped around, shouting warrior noises.

Like at many a touristy event, when we arrived, there was a photographer who took a photo of the seven of us – which proved to be truly lovely!  It is rare that a photograph of six adults and a baby will have every last person looking their best, but this one is exactly that!

All the travellers together, at the Luau
Travellers at the Luau
L-R: Tony, Heather, Rachael, Michael, Annabelle Jane, Melinda Green, Ken Green

Speaking of photographs: while we were at the Luau, Rachael got a picture of Heather and me that makes my heart melt.  I think it’s the best picture of us since... well, ever!

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December 25
Christmas Day

Heather and I got up bright and early, and were in our rental car by 8:00 AM, on our way to the town of Waimea, 64 kilometres (40 miles) away.  There we hoped to find St. James’ Episcopal church, and their 9:00 AM celebration of Christ’s Nativity.

The drive itself was wonderful.  Twisty, at first, through residential districts, with the GPS warning us surprisingly often that we were passing through school zones.  Clearly, there are lots of children in this district, who would be quite visible, were this not Christmas morning!  In time, we found ourselves high up the slope of a giant mountain (one of Hawaii’s five volcanos) with breathtaking views of the sea, far below, and, in the distance ahead, the mile-high peak of Kohala – the oldest and northernmost volcano on the island.  We loved the drive.

Then, in my rear-view mirror, I saw a familiar car: Michael and Rachael have rented a white convertible, on the front of which they put a bright red Christmas bow.  That is what I saw in my mirror.  I waved, and they waved back.

Last night, by text message, I had sent them the address of the church we planned to attend, just in case they might choose to join us, 4 and... there they were!

We got to the church just in time.  The place wasn’t large, nor was it architecturally noteworthy, but almost every seat was full, except for some overflow stacking chairs at the back.  The entry procession was forming as we came in, but the priest, recognizing strangers, took a moment to come over and say “hello,” which I appreciated.  Then the music began: “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing!” – accompanied by a capable trumpet player, a piano, and a young man on a snare drum.  Unbidden, and unexpected, tears filled my eyes, and I choked up – unable to sing a word through the first two verses.  Now, for me, it was truly and wonderfully Christmas!  A church-full of people were singing with joy about how the Maker of all had entered into this broken world as a tiny baby.  I was unbelievably happy.

And the happiness never left, as the familiar patterns of the Eucharist unfolded.  Yes, there were things I might have done differently, here and there, if I were the one giving leadership, but it mattered to me not one bit.  At this gathering, I was in the Real Presence of my Saviour, where I hope to be for eternity, and my life felt complete.

And it didn’t hurt that I was there with Heather, Rachael, Michael, and little Elle – people whom I love beyond measure.

After the service, I visited for a while with the folks who had been sitting near us – particularly a grandfather-type fellow named Paul, who was there, like me, with a daughter and a baby grandchild.  Although Paul lives in this small Hawaiian town, he has actually been in western Canada, and knows where Winnipeg is!  Which is unusual, even in many parts of continental U.S.A.  And, he told me something about the life of St. James’ church, which impressed me as a truly vital and healthy congregation.

Afterwards, we visitors went in search of a place to get some lunch, but without success.  The town of Waimea is not a tourist town, and absolutely every business and restaurant was closed for Christmas day.  So, Heather invited Michael and Rachael to come to our AirBnB, where we could serve them a brunch of pancakes and eggs and bacon.  They accepted, and we took the lovely, hour-long drive back to Kailua-Kona.  On the way, a series of text-messages with Michael’s dad and sister resulted in them joining us for the brunch.

Thus it was that we hosted a family Christmas feast... maybe not a turkey dinner, but still a family celebration over food.  It was very satisfactory.

Later in the day, Heather and I went down to the hotel where Rachael and Michael are staying.  The place has a wonderful kiddie-pool, outdoors, with spectacular scenery of the Hawaii shoreline, and that is where we spent the rest of the afternoon.  Elle loves the water, and can play in that kiddie-pool for hours on end.  Grownups sat, either at the pool’s edge, or on comfortable lounge chairs (sheilded from the sun by umbrellas), enjoying the cuteness of the little eighteen-month old, or chatting... or, in my case, sitting here with my laptop, and making an entry in my blog!

And I posted the following on FaceBook:

Mele Kalikimaka – “Merry Christmas” in the Hawaiian language.
Hodié Christus Natus Est – “Today, Christ is born” in the Latin language – which is how my heart sings.
This morning, we went to a cute little church, jam-packed with worshippers, and celebrated the Incarnation with great joy.  My life is complete.
There will be further updates here in due course, but for now I simply wish you, and those you love, all the Joy of Christ’s birth.

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December 26

Early in the morning, Heather and I set out by car, instructed by texts from Rachael and Michael, and headed south and east, towards a black sand beach that comes highly recommended in the tour guides.  The trip covered a hundred and ten kilometres of two-lane twisty and hilly road, through a constantly changing landscape.  There were huge trees, cliffsides, vistas of the majestic sweep of a volcano, and views of the endless Pacific Ocean.  We drove through rain and brilliant sunshine.  The drive would have been a satisfying tourist activity in and of itself, but it ended at Punalu’U Beach, which has its own interest: black sand, jumbled lava rocks, a pounding surf, and at least one very large green turtle, feeding around the rocks and being tossed about by the surf.

The tourism books say that there are often hundreds of turtles at this particular beach, although I saw only the one.  He was very large – in fact, one person nearby, watching him, suggested that he might be as much as a hundred years old – and I was quite satisfied to have seen him.

The Punalu’U black sand beach is two things simultaneously: untouched raw nature – and supervised by a lifeguard.  There were very few people there when we arrived, but the numbers grew over time, making the presence of a lifeguard rather essential.  It is a beach, after all, and because it is semi-protected by a reef, people can, and do, swim in it – watching for the turtles.

We stayed several hours 5 – Michael, Rachael and Elle all went in the water, while I tried to photograph the giant turtle (sadly, without much success; in the picture it just looks like a rock).  Then, the whole travelling contingent had lunch in a restaurant in a nearby village – a venue that proclaims itself to be the “Southernmost Restaurant in the U.S.A.” 6

Heather and I then followed Rachael and Michael to their hotel, where we all had a Christmas phone call with Ariel.  It was lovely – a great family catch-up.

By late afternoon, Heather and I were back in our AirBnB, and enjoying a quiet evening.  Kayaking and snorkelling tomorrow.

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December 27

Today’s only activity was to be kayaking and snorkelling.  There is a fascinating place on the southwest coast of Hawaii’s Big Island, where, in February 1779, Captain James Cook was killed by indigenous Hawaiians.  In time the Hawaiian leadership authorized the construction of a memorial to the explorer captain, and it sits on that coast to this day, right where Cook died.  As it happens, there is an extensive coral reef, just offshore from the monument, and it is frequented by eager snorkellers.

Many such swimmers come in tour boats, but a very athletic alternative exists: rent a kayak and paddle there.  The monument itself is accessible by land, but only via a very difficult path, so a kayak rental outfit set up shop about a mile away, at a point where the road can get down to the water.  Your athletic person can rent the gear, and then set out on the ocean, heading towards the monument – which is a white spire that is quite visible, even from that distance.  Once there, your athlete joins the more leisurely tourists who have come in large boats, and proceeds to snorkel away with them.  Eventually, he or she paddles back to the landing, where the kayak rental outfit operates.

One can do this alone, but it is better with two – for the solo kayaker has to find a way to secure their kayak at the monument, while he or she goes into the water – but a pair can have one person remain on board, keeping the vessel steady, while the other frolics with the fish.

We had thought that all six of us would go out this way: Rachael (with the baby strapped to her) and Michael; Michael’s dad, Ken, with Michael’s sister, Melinda; and Heather with me.  But when we got to the rental place, it was immediately evident that, today, the water was too rough to take any kind of toddler out.  The launching spot was a small bay, guarded at the entrance by several big black rocks.  Four-foot waves broke into the bay and crashed on the shore.  The kayakers had to jump into their vessel at just the right minute, then paddle like mad against the incoming waves, to get by those guardian rocks.  It looked pretty challenging.

After much conversation, this is what we decided: Heather and Rachael would take the baby back to the hotel, and entertain her in the excellent and super-safe infant pool (she loves the water).  Ken and Melinda would go out in one kayak, and Michael and I would go out in another.

And so, that is what we did.  We got and paid for the relevant equipment, and off we went. 

Ken and Melinda made it out successfully, and before long, Michael and I, in a paddling frenzy, followed suit.  Soon we had passed the other two, and were making quite good time once we were far from the shore, where the swell was more gentle.  I looked back once, and saw them in the distance, staying even further out to sea.  So Michael and I set about enjoying ourselves.

Except that, in my enthusiasm for going on this adventure, I had forgotten that I have developed some chronic pain in my right shoulder and upper arm.  I’ve learned to call it “frozen shoulder,” for it hurts when a cold breeze (such as air conditioning) blows on it, and it feels better when I keep it warm.  As we paddled madly out of the bay, the pain made its presence known.  Uh-oh.

Well, I wasn’t going to let this spoil my day, so I paddled away with all my might.  Nonetheless, sometimes I just had to stop.  Michael was in the stern, and kept us heading in the right direction, while I caught my breath, or nursed my arm.

It was a beautiful journey, over clear water, where the bottom could be seen far below, as we approached the coast and the Cook monument.  In due course, we stopped, amid the tourists, and a handful of other kayak paddlers.  Into the water Michael went.  I kept the kayak in position, and out of the way of a large pontoon boat or two.  After a while, Michael came back, and in I went.  Clear water, sun’s rays slanting down, brightly-coloured fish, and a variety of creatures in the nooks and crannies of the coral were all there to be viewed, and enjoyed by this old fellow.  I swam around, and dived to the bottom a couple of times, as happy as can be!  Then I returned to the kayak.

At this point, I could no longer pretend that I am still 40 years old, since I could not, for the life of me, get back into the kayak.  I simply did not have enough upper-body strength.  Michael had to swim around to the other side of the Kayak, and pull me on to it, as if I was a great fat seal!  But I recovered my composure, after laughing helplessly for a bit, and resumed the sitting position.

But both of us were now becoming anxious – very anxious – because Ken and Melinda had not yet joined us.

Suddenly, Michael spotted them – a fair distance away, just arriving among the swimming tourists, Melinda paddling bravely, but Ken sitting, motionless.  Michael was still in the water, so he set out towards them, swimming, while I paddled along behind.

Apparently, Ken’s back had given out, entirely.  He could neither paddle, nor move.

What’s to be done?  Ken couldn’t possibly walk the treacherous trail up the mountainside to the road.  We could ask one of the tour boats to take him, but no powerboat could ever get into that little bay from which we had started, so Ken would have to be taken to the boat’s normal pier – and then how would we find him?  And how long would he have to wait there?

So, we decided to tow Ken and Melinda’s kayak back ourselves.  Melinda could help a little, from her spot in the front of their vessel.  We attached a tow rope, and off we went.

Remember my “frozen shoulder”?  Well, it objected.  But there was no way I was going to let Michael paddle his father, his sister, and me that mile of ocean, so I put my back into it and paddled as mightily as I could.  However, there were several times when I just had to stop and catch my breath, while Michael continued paddling stoically.

But, we made it!  Towing and towed roared in on the surf, and rental staff helped me, and Melinda, and Ken get out, after which Michael pulled the kayaks up on to the gravel beach.

I was trembling, and exhausted, but pleased as punch to have had this delightful adventure.  Pleased, too, that we had successfully returned Ken to land!  Ken was able to drive, so we sent him and Melinda on their way, back to their own hotel, where they could rest up and recover.

Meanwhile, Rachael had taken her mother and daughter in their rental car back to the hotel, so I was to bring Michael with me in our car.  But, we fell in with a young couple who had just found out that you can’t get an Uber to come and fetch you at that remote location.  So I offered to drive them back to town myself.

Which is what I did.  I dropped Michael at his hotel, then proceeded another ten miles into town with the young people, who, it turns out, were on their honeymoon!  It was fun, getting to know them.

In due course, Heather and I both ended up back at Rachael and Michael’s luxury hotel, tasked with babysitting Elle, while the two still-new parents had a dinner out, and an evening to themselves.

Which is where we are now.  We fed the child, in one of the restaurants in this place, then brought her back to the room.  And, after much singing and story-telling, she fell asleep.  She is now in the land of baby dreams, while I type this, and Heather happily reads a novel.

Tomorrow we all fly back to California.

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December 28

After a quiet final morning in Hawaii, we all boarded an Alaska Airlines plane, and five hours later we were on the ground in Sacramento.  Except that we had crossed two time zones, in the process, so it was about 11:00 PM, local time, when we got to Michael and Rachael’s home.

Lola the dog went amok when she saw us; running around in circles, jumping up and down, atterly frantic with joy.  As Rachael and Michael were very tired (Elle had not weathered the long flight well) we offered to keep Lola in our room for the night, and on our bed.

December 29

Having Lola in our bed, last night, proved to be something of a challenge.  She was so energetic and excited.  At about 1:30 AM, I thought she had to pee, so I got up, and let her out.  I was right.  But at 3:30, and then at 5:30 AM she just wanted to see the rest of her family – scratching at the door on the main section of the house, whenever I let her out.  Eventually I discovered a technique: put a blanket over her, in our bed, and she quiets down instantly.  We got a couple of extra hours sleep that way.  And the rest of the family – including the baby – slept through the night without interruption.

Other than that, the day has been peaceful.  Ken and Melinda left about noon, returning to their home in Oakhurst, California – 300 km.  to the south.  I did a couple of errands – including the purchase of a case of marmalade that I cannot get in Canada 7 – and other than that, I worked away on coding this travel blog, and its accompanying photo album.

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December 30

Having arrived back at our daughter’s in Sacramento, our adventures slow down considerably.  This phase of our journey now begins to resemble the sort of normal stay that one has at a relative’s home: three meals a day, occasional meals in restaurants, and ordinary living – such as going to church.

Indeed, that is what we did this morning, we went to church.  We attended a Church of Christ congregation where Rachael and Michael are active members.  It was particularly nice that some of the people came over to us after the service, just to say “hello”  to visiting strangers.

After church, we had lunch at a rather unique Sacramento eatery called “The Rind”  – a place for cheese and beer and wine.  Walking back to the car after lunch we passed a set of stairs which Rachael and Michael thought might be an interesting backdrop for some photos.  The results can be seen in the photo album.

There followed a quiet afternoon, including naps for all concerned.

December 31


Forty-three years ago, on New Year’s Eve, 1975, Heather and I were married.  In some ways, it was a small wedding; each of us had one attendant: Rene Jamieson as Matron of Honour, and Larry Jamieson (Rene’s husband) as Best Man.  We were also attended by my three small children.  There would be a reception at Larry and Rene’s home, involving a handful of people.

And yet, the church was full.  I was Rector of a small congregation at the time, and we had told the parishioners, “If you’re going out for New Year’s, why not drop in at the church on your way, and attend our wedding?”  We didn’t expect that the place would be packed, but it was.  So, at the end of the ceremony, Heather and I stood at the church door, shaking hands and thanking the people for coming, as they exited into the winter night.  Larry and Rene took our kids over to their place while we did this, so in the end, Heather and I were the last ones in the building.  We put away the register book, turned out the lights, and locked up.  We joked, “You know, we could just get into the car and disappear down the highway, right?”  But we didn’t, and were soon bringing in the New Year at the Jamiesons’.  Later, our kids held open the door of the Rectory, as I carried Heather across the threshold.

Bishop Valentine had presided at the wedding, but he disappeared immediately afterwards.  Why?  Because, that night, he and the rest of the world were thinking about hockey: the Montreal Canadiens were playing the Red Army.  That game is now considered to be one the 25 greatest hockey games of all time, and Bishop Valentine was desperate to get in front of his TV set to see it.  We didn’t mind.  As I say, we had thought that this would be a “small” wedding.

All of this still fills us with happy memories, and gives us fun tales to tell.

And now, forty-three years later, here we are at the home of our daughter Rachael, who came into our lives, two years after our wedding....

So, how should we mark the occasion?

Well, Rachael has this exquisite daughter – a tiny, opinionated, eighteen-month old with an infectious grin.  Why don’t we babysit her, and let her parents go out to bring in the New Year in style?  Such a plan would fill this long-married couple with great happiness.

And so it was decided.  Rachael and Michael would go out for a nice, late restaurant dinner, after which they would wander about with other revellers, and maybe see some fireworks.

In order that they could enjoy themselves without reserve, it was also decided that I would be Rachael and Michael’s “designated driver.”  I would drive them to the restaurant, and I would come when called, wherever they might end up, to bring them home, even if that should be long past midnight.

And therein lies a tale.  Michael and Rachael’s home is one of these “smart homes” where lights, room temperature, and other electrical things can be turned on and off automatically, or by a simple touch on a smartphone.  The house is, in fact, so “smart” that it knows when both of its adult inhabitants have gone out, at which point it turns off all the lights.

So, I was driving them to their restaurant when Michael’s phone beeped with a text message.  It was Heather.  “Umm.  I am in the dark.”

My car rocked with hysterical laughter.  Pity for the babysitting grandmother?  Of course!  Michael texted “Sorry!” and, with his touch on a screen, the lights back at the house immediately came on again.  Such is this high-tech world!

And my two passengers did not end up staying out until the turn of the year, after all!  They called me at about 11:00 PM.  I went and got them, and we all brought in the New Year together.

Oh, and what did Heather and I do for our Anniversary Dinner?  Early in the evening, long before Rachael and Michael were to leave the house, she and I went out together.  For pizza.  It was good.

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January 1, 2019

Happy New Year!!

2019 began quietly, and domestically, here at Rachael and Michael’s home.

But there was one great, big, wonderful thing that happened – something that always delights the heart of any grandparent: Annabelle Jane stood, unsupported, for the very first time.

At eighteen months, she’s a bit late for this sort of thing, but she’s proving to be a very cautious person – she’s not going to do something until she’s completely confident that she can manage it safely.

Today, we were just sitting around in the living-room, when she crawled onto the entrance landing, which is a fairly wide, flat surface.  Then, slowly and deliberately, she stood, wavering slightly, for ten seconds or more.

The grownups nearby caught sight of this, and began to hoot and holler and clap and cheer, whereupon she broke into a wide grin, and began clapping herself.  And promply dropped to the floor.  We encouraged her to try again, which she did, though for a much shorter time (and we caught that one on video).  We had hardly started our applause when she was down again.  This repeated itself sufficiently that she began to think that the applause was for her fall, and not for her standing.  So she began to half-stand, then flop down, shrieking and laughing and clapping, herself.

It took a while before she caught on that we got excited when she was up, and not when she had collapsed to the floor.  But – truth be told – she loved the applause, showing every sign that she is surely destined for the stage...

We may see her begin to actually put one foot in front of the other, and walk, while we’re here.  Stay tuned. 8

Meanwhile, I had lots of time to work on this blog.  I made considerable progress on the connected photo album, in fact.  But, coding everything “by hand” is very time-consuming.  Each picture in the album takes about 30 minutes, so the album may take a while to complete...!

A Change of Plans:

Originally, we were supposed to begin our return journey to Canada today.  But we didn’t.  Why?  Because we’re needed for babysitting.

Next weekend is Rachael’s birthday, and Michael has concocted a real treat for his wife: on Friday she will be taken on an overnight “staycation” – a fancy dinner; a relaxing stay in a boutique hotel with all the luxuries; a sleep-in; and an elegant breakfast.  It’s to be a surprise.  Michael thought he had lined up babysitting, but that plan fell through, so he has turned to his in-laws.  When she heard her husband invite us to stay the week, Rachael realized that something in her honour was up, but she doesn’t know the full extent of it, and we’re not telling.

So, we’re here at least until Saturday morning.  And, since the actual birthday is on Sunday, we might as well stay for that!

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January 4

As you can see, there have been a couple of days with no entries.  This is with good reason: there was nothing but domestic stuff to report.  Annabelle Jane has not yet taken her actual first step – though she now stands repeatedly, and even does a little movement that resembles “The Twist” – that one-time dance craze.  Indeed, when Rachael puts the tune, “Let’s do the Twist” on the stereo, the child moves in time to it... but she does not walk.  Interesting.

And I have become very aware of the weather.  A huge amount of snow has fallen in Canada’s Rockies, and Highway #1 was closed yesterday, due to the risk of avalanches.  We were going to go home via Christopher and Andrea, in Vernon, B.C., but if we do, we may have difficulty trying to go east from there, over Highway #1’s steepest passes.  Text messages with Chris also revealed that he and his wife are starting to get really busy, and while they would welcome a second visit from us, it won’t be relaxed.  So, we’ve decided to go straight across the northwestern U.S. – in a diagonal line from Sacramento to Winnipeg.  It’s a 2,900 kilometre trip, but it involves only one major mountan pass – the Donner Pass – and a well-travelled interstate highway, I-80, goes through it, so it should be fairly easy to cross.

The day ends with us babysitting.  Rachael and Michael are out on that birthday “staycation.” Annabelle Jane has been as good as gold, and went to bed without fuss, assisted by her doting Nana.

January 5

And she woke up without fuss, too.  We had breakfast and played together (she loves looking at family photos on my computer screen).  Her parents came home, happy and relaxed, at mid-day, and then took us – as a “thank-you” to a delightful restaurant, for dinner.

However, it’s raining.  Which is a good thing, if you’re a Californian (remember those dreadful fires?)!  Then, Californian farmers feed much of the U.S. and Canada.  And rain, high in the mountains, becomes snow, and remains there to run down in rivers all summer, so that taps can flow in San Francisco and in Los Angeles.

Snow?  In the mountains?  Uh-oh.

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Sunday, January 6, 2019
Feast of the Epiphany, and a birthday

10:31 PM
This entry is being made under candlelight.  The power’s out, here at Rachael and Michael’s Sacramento home.

Today is Rachael’s xyth birthday.  It’s also our granddaughter, Alexa’s nnrd birthday.  I’ve greeted Alexa by text, but being with Rachael here in California, I’ve been personally involved in her celebrations.  There was that overnight, for example, on Friday, when Heather and I babysat, so that she and Michael could have a “staycation.”  And today, there was a birthday brunch, in a restaurant, after church.

The brunch was very nice, as was the church service.  In fact, the brunch was, in some ways, an extension of the service, because the church’s preacher, 9 and their music leader, and their social media person – with spouses and children, as applicable – were there to celebrate with our daughter.  They’re all good people, and I like them a lot, so I found it to be a delightful time.

The brunch concluded the three-day celebration of Rachael’s birthday.  We returned to her home, in the pouring rain.

The rain continued past nightfall.  Which, early on, gave me warning that there would be snow, and plenty of it, up in the mountain passes, through which we must go on our way home.  When I checked, this turned out to be the case.  In fact Interstate 80 – the only highway that puts us in the right direction for Winnipeg – is closed.  More than a metre of snow has fallen, up in the Donner Pass!

When I mentioned to Rachael and Michael that the highway has been closed, they both said that we must stay with them as long as is necessary.  They did not want us attempting the pass in inclement weather, even if the route is officially re-opened.  So, we shall see what things are like tomorrow, and if the weather remains bad, we shall see what they’re like on Tuesday.

Then the power went off, at about 7:15 PM, confirming our worst fears about the weather.  The wind has been very strong, and weather advisories are out for much of the Pacific coast.  As I can still get the Internet on my cellphone, I was able to find an online electricity utility map that shows many power outages in California, over a broad sweep, almost as far south as Los Angeles.  Our particular outage, the utility says, has deprived 2,900 people of power!

Finally, after 11:00 PM, while I was laboriously pecking out this blog entry on my phone, power was restored, and I completed it, using the easier technique of ten-finger typing on my laptop.

We shall see what tomorrow brings.

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January 7

It has been a lovely quiet day for us, here in Sacramento... and it looks like we will set out for Winnipeg in the morning.  Things have cleared up in the nearby passes, by all accounts.

So, I took Heather 40 km. down the highway, to a shopping mecca – the Vacaville Premium Outlets – where she explored stores to her heart’s content.  I, being totally uninterested in shopping, sat in the car while she did this, working on this travel narrative.

After we returned to Sacramento, Heather cooked dinner for the family, and Rachael and Michael watched the college football National Championship game on his giant screen TV.  My own level of appreciation of this sport amounts to: “Why did that man knock the other man down?” but I enjoyed watching my daughter and her husband respond to the various plays – cheering for some and groaning at others!  In the end, their approved team won, so all was well.

Michael has very kindly checked weather and road conditions for me.  Apparently we must leave tomorrow, because the weather has cleared up, the I-80 highway is open to traffic without restriction, and on Wednesday another serious weather event is moving in from the Pacific.  So there is just that one, twenty-four hour window in which we may safely cross the Sierra Nevada mountain range into Nevada.  We will leave tomorrow.

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January 8

And so, the day has come.  We have now departed Sacramento.  There was a tear or two to be shed, as we said goodbye to Rachael, Michael and little Annabelle Jane.

But, we had plain sailing through the Donner Pass – thanks be to God.  At the top of the pass – which is 2.2 kilometres (7,227 ft ) above sea level – we could see sure signs of the one metre of snow that had fallen over the past two days.  It really is impressive how the highway and its turn-offs have been so quickly and completely cleared, while enormous amounts of snow remain in the forests all around!

At the Donner Summit Rest Area, I took the dog and looked for the designated place where pets should relieve themselves.  I found it alright – under very deep snow.  The tip of the sign that said “Pick up after your pet” was all that indicated its location!  So, the dog did what she had to do, there on the plowed parking lot.  And I picked it up, as instructed.

Oh yes, the dog.  This tiny creature, Lola, which we drove all the way to California, is now coming back to Winnipeg.  Why?  Because it happens that Rachael and Michael will be going to Germany and France at the end of January, so Lola will have to go to a kennel for a long-ish period.  Learning this, Heather volunteered to be that kennel!!!  I simply got volun-told.  I don’t really mind, because Lola is so extremely cute, but having her with us on the trip, and later in the apartment, is a bit like travelling with, and caring for, a baby – it has its stresses.  But this is the plus side: Rachael must now fly to Winnipeg at the end of her trip to Europe, 10 in order to fetch the dog – so we will get to see her and her daughter again!

We continued down from the pass and drove the I-80 through Reno, and far into Nevada, at an astonishing 80 miles per hour (the actual posted limit, east of Reno).  Now we’ve stopped for the night in the town of Winnemucca.

As is our wont, once we were certain that we could make it to Winnimucca, we had booked our hotel from the highway, by using a so-called “smartphone.”  The details of the place, and the price, seemed really good in the booking software.

However, when we pulled in, and I entered the motel office, two other guests were telling the receptionist about problems that they had with the heat (their room was cold) and with the hot water (a freezing shower).  I could not help overhearing this, so when it was my turn, I asked about it.  The receptionist told me that it was a property-wide problem, and that the plumber was at work on the hot water system at that very moment.  In addition to the water for sinks and showers, the property has a water-based HVAC system, just like the one in our own apartment block: hot water heats the place in the winter, and cold water in the same system cools it in summer.  The plumber had gone to buy some parts, but was hard at work, so we could expect to be comfortable tonight.  I wondered aloud whether we should just cancel our booking – and the receptionist agreed that we could, if desired – but cancelling through our booking software threatened to be a pain, and besides, we were tired.  I suggested that Heather and I check out the room, before we made up our minds.  Oh, and as she has problems with stairs, could we possibly have a room on the ground floor?  “Certainly, sir!” was the reply.  He actually assigned us one of their handicap-accessible rooms, and when we went to check it, it was certainly comfortable (not cold at all, by our standards, despite the complaints of the other guests).  We decided to stay.

Heather remembered that some good friends had once been in this town, and they had been particularly impressed with a certain restaurant.  So we phoned them, and eventually determined that the place they had gone to was the Bakarra Baske Bistro, so we went there.  I enjoyed the atmosphere, and really enjoyed chatting with the wait staff.  The food was good, too, but there was far too much for this old geezer to eat.

We’re now enjoying the quiet in our hotel room.  There is a certain amount of decompressing to do, after the past several weeks in Sacramento and Hawaii.  Sitting still, doing nothing much (except working on this blog) is very pleasant.  Of course, we have the dog, but so far, so good – she’s being very well behaved, and is not a pest at all.

January 9

Two minor calamities:

Our motel room was comfortable, and remained so all night.  The plumber must have done his job properly.  And there was hot water in the taps.  So, I decided to take a morning shower.

First problem: the bathroom was handicap-accessible, so there was lots of space to move a wheelchair around, but not a single surface on which to put things, such as clean clothes.  I had to put mine on the floor.

Next, start to run the shower.  The system looked to be brand new – modern, and well-thought-out for handicapped people: the single handle that turned on the water and set the temperature, was placed low, and near the edge of the tub-surround, where a person in a wheelchair could reach it.  The shower head was on a vertical pole, where it could be adjusted for height.  As well, the showerhead was on a flexible hose, so it could be hand-held.  And there was a fold down platform inside the tub-surround, upon which some people with mobility issues could sit to take their shower.  All very impressive.

So I turned the water lever, attempting to find where I should set it for a good temperature.  Whereupon the showerhead sprayed me with water.  I pointed it away from me, and it immediately moved back to spray me, and the room!  I tried to tighten the holders, and the height settings, but they would not tighten.  Eventually, with a lot of the room wet, I got the showerhead to stay still.  But the water coming out of it was extremely hot.  I rotated the lever to the midway point between hot and cold, whereupon the temperature moderated.  But slowly it became hotter, and hotter, and hotter!  Why?  I looked down, and the handle was rotating, all by itself, to the hottest setting!  I moved it back to moderate, and it calmly rotated back to hot.  And each time I moved it – or it moved – pressure inside the hose changed, so the showerhead above me rotated about at will!  It was insane.

Finally, by cramming some of the shower curtain behind the lever, I got it to stay still, and the showerhead mostly stopped waving about.  And I took my shower.

Much of this happened behind the shower curtains, but when I got out, I found that there was water on the floor.  And, did I mention where I had to put my clean clothes?

Some of my stuff was damp, but, thankfully, it was wearable.

The second “calamity” could not really be attributed to the motel, in any way: I travel with tooth brush, tooth paste, razor, nail clippers, eye drops, and a bit of first aid stuff – all in a zippered bag.  When I opened the bag after my “shower” adventures, I found that a bottle of iodine had squirted itself all over the contents of the bag.  This had something to do with yesterday’s trip through the Donner Pass, I think.  A flight attendant that I know tells me that air, in containers of fluid, will, at high altitudes, expand and push the fluid out.  Something to do with low atmospheric pressure outside the container, with higher pressure inside.  I figure that’s what probably happened to my 3/4 empty screw-top bottle of iodine.  So, in addition to the stress caused by that insane “shower,” I had to do a lot of cleaning up of bottles, and razors, and the inside of a zippered bag.

But, in due course, we were packed and on our way.

And, as it turned out, today has been the best day of driving, so far, in our entire trip.  We covered 719 km of highway, through the most spectacular scenery, on a clean, grippy road surface, and all of it under a clear sky and brilliant sunshine.  I now officially name Nevada as being one of the most extraordinary places in which I have ever driven.  Especially in winter.  Numberless pointy peaks, all snow-covered, and gleaming in the sun.  And, vistas – such magnificent views, where it is arguable that you can see things that are 70 kilometres away.  We both loved it.

A driving paradox: the posted limit on the highway was, for much of the way, 80 mph (129 kph).  I got quite used to driving at such a speed, and in fact, when the limit was reduced to 65 mph (105 kph) – for urban areas and the like – I felt as though we had slowed to a crawl!  105 kph is not slow!  Weird.

I now have three places in which I love to drive.  They are, in no particular order: the North Shore of Lake Superior; the Trans-Canada highway between Calgary and Lake Louise; and now Nevada – both East-West on I-80, and North-South on U.S. Highway #95. 11

Meanwhile, on today’s drive, in addition to the amazing scenery, we went by two roadside signs that were memorable.  One was at the beginning of some major construction.  It said, “Follow the [detour] signs; don’t follow your GPS.”  It’s a new world, isn’t it, where people consult electronic devices rather than road signs!?  The other notable message was on an illuminated billboard.  It said, “Get the U.S. out of the U.N.”  Hmmmm.

We have now stopped for the night in Idaho Falls, Idaho.

Just as we arrived at our motel, a text came in from Michael: it accompanied a video of Annabelle Jane walking, unsupported, between mother and father.  They call her the “drunken elf,” but, while she may be wobbly, she’s well and truly walking.  On January 1, we were there when she first stood unsupported, and now we’ve only missed her first toddler steps by 36 hours.

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January 10

We covered almost 900 kilometres today, and made it to a motel in Glendive, Montana.  Although the drive started out as a white-knuckle experience, in heavy snowfall, things lightened up after about 40 minutes, and the road surface became dry.  Apart from a segment of the trip, when we went along the edge of Yellowstone National Park, and encountered some two-lane driving on packed snow, most of the day was spent on Interstate highways, with a speed limit of 80 miles per hour – day and night.  I’ve become quite used to it, but I continue to find such a speed limit astonishing.

Scenery was often astonishing, too – though not quite a match for Nevada.

It’s hard not to think that this trip has been blessed.  We’ve avoided all the serious weather events – many of them happening the day before, or the day after, we pass by!

Today’s snow storm coming out of Idaho Falls has been the most difficult driving, so far, for me – and somewhat humbling, too, since it was only heavy snow, and not a crippling blizzard.  But I sure didn’t like driving in it.  Yes, “humbling” is the word, given that I can be rather sinfully proud of my driving skills.

We also had a bit of a crisis after passing through Billings and getting on Interstate 94.  I wanted to get in as much driving in daylight as I could manage, and gas stations, as we came out of Billings, seemed to be plentiful.  So, rather than stop in daylight to fill up my car, I kept driving, thinking that with the gas gauge indicating one quarter tank, I would have plenty of opportunity for a fill.

But I was wrong.  When I started to think I should stop, there were no gas stations to be had.  Mile after mile, none – indeed there was very little human habitation of any kind.  By the time we came upon the little town of Custer, I was contemplating a call to AAA.  But there I spotted a single gas station, and pulled in with a huge sigh of relief.

I never knew that my car’s gas tank could hold 11.5 U.S. gallons!  I thought it was built for 10, 12 but 11.5 is what it took to fill the thing.  I had definitely been running on fumes.

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January 11

This morning – our last day in the U.S. (at least, for now), we were up at 8:30 AM, and breakfasting in the Glendive motel’s “free breakfast” room.  There I fell into conversation with three people – the motel’s receptionist, and a young couple.  It turned out that the receptionist is the mother of the young man, and the young woman is the fellow’s wife.  We spoke of current events (for example, a Wisconsin girl, who was abducted, has been found, and her abductor – who also murdered her parents – has been arrested).  During our breakfast, the trio also all stepped outside to smoke cigarettes together.  And... the young man chose to tell me the good that he thinks President Trump is doing... so there’s that.

Soon we were on our way, heading north to the Canadian border and the Province of Saskatchewan – and once more we found ourselves driving through memorable scenery.  Rolling, treeless hills, with great expanses of water-carved valleys featuring giant buttes, and then, as we got closer to Saskatchewan, flat endless plains.  I have enjoyed every minute of this drive from Sacramento to Indian Head – the scenery has been really wonderful.

And it was also interesting to drive from moderate temperature to cold.

The Canada Customs officer was very good-natured.  He read the dog’s vaccination papers, and laughed at my account of buying Canadian marmalade in the States – and then we were once more driving in “Our Home and Native Land.” 13  I confess that it felt good.  Despite being five or six hundred kilometres from Winnipeg, we had, in some way, come “home.”

Our friends in Indian Head gave us a royal welcome, with delicious food, and an extensive personal update about their family, and about life in general.  And we all read Compline 14 together!  They had copies of the Book of Common Prayer at home, and we followed the complete Compline rite, seated together in the living room.  I can’t speak for the others, but as far as I was concerned, it was deeply, and wonderfully, satisfying.

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January 12

We’re home.  We said goodbye to our friends in Indian Head at about 11:00 AM, and, after an uneventful 5-hour drive, pulled into the parking garage of our apartment block at about 4:30 PM.  A bunch of unpacking followed, then a car wash, grocery shopping, and a dinner at McDonald’s.  Then – because that’s the kind of people we are – we went over to some friends’ for an evening of Canasta, the card game, (which we lost, badly).

My GPS device – which I used in my own car, and in the rental car in Hawaii – says that I drove a total of 7,528 kilometres (4,677 miles), at an average speed of 90 km/h (55 mph).  It also says that Heather and I were in a car, driving somewhere, for a total of 83 hours and 28 minutes.

If I were asked to evaluate the trip, I think that my favourite parts would be: the journey across Nevada, the kayaking in Hawaii, and Annabelle Jane’s progress towards walking on her own.  There was nothing wrong or unpleasant, not even the tricky driving in northern Idaho.  All told, it was a wonderful adventure.

Still, as much as I loved the trip, I am very, very glad to be home!

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1  An escape room is a type of puzzle.  Players are locked in a room, and have to escape by figuring out certain clues.  It’s a perfect game for lawyers, who, in their profession, are constantly trying to solve human problems!  And, of course, it's quite safe – for the room’s staff monitor progress, and if the participants cannot figure out the “escape,” they unlock the room, and explain the clues as their customers prepare to depart.
On January 4, 2019, five teens perished in a Polish escape room.  This calls into question the above assertion that such games are “quite safe.”  Being locked in a room with no emergency exit, as was the case in the Polish disaster, is, admittedly, not safe!
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2  Taji is a remarkable creature – quiet, relaxed, and rarely given to excitement or barking.  Her breed is Shiba Inu, a spitz variant originating in Japan.
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3  In 2018, Kilauea, the youngest and smallest of the five volcanoes on Hawaii's "Big Island," spewed forth some serious lava, damaging homes and over-running roads. There is lots of information about it online, of which this tour site is a good example.
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4  Michael grew up in a Christian church that does not celebrate the birth of Christ on December 25.  He and Rachael are active in a congregation of that tradition, but over the years, they have often attended Episcopal Christmas Day services.  But we never assume that they will do this, and today, were delighted that they joined us.  Ken and Melinda remained consistent with their church’s custom.
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5  It was on the Punalu’U beach that the photo of Rachael and Elle was taken, which I later decided should be the “symbol” of this trip – that is, the picture on the upper left hand corner of every page.
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6  Hana Hou Restaurant, Naalehu, Hawaii.
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7  I love the following astonishing fact about the marmalade: it is made in Canada, but cannot be purchased in Canada.  The Trader Joe grocery chain sells it on condition that they have exclusive sales rights.  So it goes from Canada, to the U.S., where I buy it, and import it into its country of origin.  “What marmalade can be worth such trouble?”  you might ask.  The answer is: a dark and bitter Seville Orange marmalade.  It’s my favourite breakfast spread, and I always stock up on it when in the U.S.
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8  As it turned out, Annabelle Jane began to walk one day after we had left for Winnipeg.  Oh well, you can’t have everything in life!
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9  In the Church of Christ denomination, the position of “preacher” is comparable to “pastor,” or “Rector,” or “minister” of other Christian churches, as the individual is often a full-time staff person in the congregation, and in many ways its spiritual leader.
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10  As you probably know, Rachael is an Air Canada flight attendant, and a staff perk is that she can fly all over the place at minimal expense.
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11 Highway #95 is the route from Reno to Las Vegas, in Nevada.  We drove that route in January of 2017, though I never got a chance to create a blog about that road trip.
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12  Wrong!  It turns out that the tank holds 13.2 U.S. gallons (50 litres), so I still had some distance left to drive before completely emptying it.  But the gauge had gone below the ‘empty’ mark, so it was a great relief to find that gas station!
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13 For my U.S. and International readers, the words in quotation marks are from the Canadian national anthem.
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14 “Compline” is a beautiful and serene prayer service used at the end of the day, in monasteries.
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