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June 29th

Our flights home began on a happy note, when we arrived at the Guatemala airport, fully expecting to have to pay for checked bags.  We had two roller boards, one large hiking backpack and our two personal knap sacks – so five bags in total and we learned that we in fact each got a free checked bag. When Fran had called American Airlines, they said we’d have to pay for all checked bags so this was a pleasant surprise. We checked one roller board and the large backpack – the two heavier bags. Before boarding our flight to Miami, they began asking if any passengers would like to check their carry on as the flight was full and we “volunteered” up our third bag and they said it would be checked all the way to Seattle – bonus! Now we are travelling with only our personal knapsacks and Fran could pull her purse out as a second carry on. When landing in Miami, of course, we had to retrieve our luggage to go through customs. As bad as a three hour layover seemed, we needed just over half that time just to wait for our bags and go through customs. Ridiculous.

We arrived in Phoenix a little late, caught the shuttle to the airport hotel, and caught a few hours’ sleep before heading back to the airport for our the last leg of this part of the journey.

After our long trek to get here (gotta love point flights!), we landed about a half hour late, Doug stayed at the airport to retrieve our bags while Fran took a cab to an offsite car rental place to get out rental car for the next three weeks. It was only five minutes away and she was back at SeaTac by the time Doug came out to the curb.

As we still have medical insurance while Doug is working, we had arranged from a bunch of appointments while we were in Seattle. First Fran had a mammogram (hence the need to get out of the airport quickly), Doug had a physical, then Fran had hers and then we both had bloodwork done. We then drove to Doug’s employer’s Bellevue office to pick up a number of items we had shipped from Amazon as well as our mail which we had arranged to have forwarded there (thanks so much Freda!). Next was shopping! Doug needed a few items for his upcoming week long hike and we had a few items we can rarely find on our journey so this meant stopping at REI and Walmart. By the time this was done, it was 5:30 and we were beat; we picked up some dinner and went to a hotel for the night.

Thursday morning, we had dental appointments so we were up and checked out by 7:30 and we hit the road to the Canadian border around 10:45.

Our first stop after crossing the border with no issues (and no car permit needed here!), was to visit Doug’s mother who had just moved to Chilliwack from Victoria in May. She has a little one bedroom apartment and for the most part is happy there. This was not a good day to head east along the Trans – Canada as it was the day before the long weekend. July 1st is Canada Day and the city dwellers were “getting out of dodge”. We had about 20 minutes of heavy traffic before things opened up and flowed more smoothly.

After the visit, we were headed against the traffic and made good time into Vancouver until we hit the bridge traffic heading into North Vancouver but it was not for very long. We are staying at Fran’s sister’s little “city” apartment for most of the next two and a half weeks. After unpacking the car, we walked about three blocks to our dear friends, Therese & Pat’s and enjoyed a lovely dinner while catching up and hearing about their recent trip to New Zealand. As they have a hot dinner, we had a nice soak before heading to our temporary home for one night.  This was Fran’s sister’s little apartment in North Vancouver.  Here’s a pic of the view from her balcony:

view from Sandra's

Friday, the 1st, we headed to Vancouver Island – Doug’s step dad passed away on Father’s Day and the Celebration of Life is being held on July 2nd outside Victoria. Doug’s youngest brother, D’Arcy is putting us up for the weekend. Doug was the MC for the service and it was nice to catch up with family even under these sad circumstances. Doug’s sister, Dana, who was Bill’s primary caregiver outside his nursing home, wrote a eulogy siting memories of their childhood and stories of their father. We finished the day with drinks and appies at a local bar thinking of “Grumps”.

Sunday the 3rd, we joined Doug’s uncle’s family for lunch and took a drive out to Sooke to visit Fran’s father bench on the spit; a weekend for paternal memories.

at Dad's bench on Whiffen Spit, Sooke

Monday, we endured BC Ferries once again and headed back to the mainland where we spent two nights in Langley with our longtime friends, Chris & Irene. We then returned to Fran’s sister’s apartment in North Vancouver on Wednesday where we stayed for two weeks. Fran had lunch with a former co-worker, Dave, in downtown Vancouver one day, we spent some time with Sandra (Fran’s sister) on and off when she was in town, we chilled and used the internet at her place, checked out the Shipyards on the waterfront on Friday night to listen to music, eat from the food trucks and sit in the beer garden with her. During this stay, Fran lost a crown off her back tooth and checked out the possibility of getting it redone in Washington State but the timing didn’t work and the cost was going to be over $1100 as this crown was less than five years old (Dental insurance only covers one crown per five years on each tooth). So we got online and found that dental tourism is big in Guatemala as well and she arranged for an appointment the day after we return. Luckily, she’s in no pain and temperature differences are not an issue.

Serena flew into Vancouver on Sunday the 10th for four days/three nights. We spent three days with her and she spent one night/one day with a good friend of hers that she’s known since kindergarten.

We enjoyed lunch watching the Eurocup, then the afternoon and dinner visiting Fran’s Aunt Monique and Uncle Dick in Richmond. Her cousin Bryan and his two children joined us.

Monday we drove out to Chilliwack again and visited Doug’s mother again, this time, with Serena, where the four of us went out for lunch and then skyped with Joshua and our grandkids. That night we celebrated bdays and mother’s/father’s day with Serena by dinner at White Spot.

Tuesday, the three of us walked Granville Island in the sprinkling rain and then drove north up the Sea to Sky Highway to Squamish where we hoped to enjoy the Sea to Sky Gondola but the weather did not cooperate so we checked out the Tenderfoot Fish Hatchery that Doug had helped build during this summers at UBC. Later that afternoon we took Serena to her friend, Becky’s, where we enjoyed a short visit with her parents as well before joining Pat & Therese for dinner once again, followed by a few rousing hands of cards. Therese, you always serve a scrumptious meal! Thanks again.

Serena and DadWednesday, the weather got somewhat better and Doug walked himself a little more than a marathon in training for his five day hike next week. He was most pleased with his performance.   Fran took care of some banking and kept working on our photos.   By late afternoon the weather was quite nice and we had a clear night for a change. Serena went home today; a short but sweet visit.

Thursday, Fran and her sister, Sandra spent the afternoon walking and talking before Fran went out for dinner with friends that she used to work with in the early ‘80’s: Gaye, Linda, Pam, Debbie, Sandy and Dina – it was great to see you all and catch up ladies.

dinner with the C&M girlsFriday, we chilled after doing household stuff and Doug finished packing for his Rock Wall hike. Fran stayed at her sister’s North Van apartment until early Tuesday morning when she left for Seattle to return the rental car and fly to Toronto on Wednesday. Enroute she picked up our repaired instrument panel and ran a few errands.

After a short night’s sleep, Fran was off to the airport at 4:30 AM to catch her flight to Toronto via Salt Lake City. She arrived safe and sound to a sunny Toronto and after picking up her rental car went to meet Josh, Arya & Cyrus at the park near their home, where she had so fun much getting reacquainted with the grandkids. Joshua now lives in Caledon, Ontario – northwest of the city of Toronto, and works in nearby Bolton.  Our grandkids turned 3 at the end of June, and now ride trikes, play little tikes t-ball and are quite conversant in what is mostly understandable English :).

Fran spent the next two and half days playing with the kids and enjoying Josh’s company before Doug flew into Toronto from Calgary mid-day on Saturday from Calgary after his hike. They went to parks, an indoor playground one day it was super-hot and the kids enjoyed bubble baths in her hotel room as they only have a shower at Josh’s.

On July 16th Doug left Vancouver to meetup with his hiking partners from Kilimanjaro four years ago. Peter Gardner hails from British Columbia; Matt Jakubowski from Minnesota; and Roslyn Coltheart from Australia. This time they did a five day trek on the Rockwall Trail in Kootenay National Park, BC, widely considered to be one of the premier multiday treks found anywhere – incredible scenery with majestic vertical craggy peaks, glaciers, rivers, waterfalls and lakes. The highest elevation hiked was only 7800′ so no altitude acclimatization was needed this time.

the wallThe first day they hiked 10 miles to Helmet Falls – absolutely stunning – the tallest in the Canadian Rockies. After setting up camp and resting a bit they did a 5 mile return hike up 1300′ to view Mount Goodsir. The second day they hiked 8 miles over Rockwall Pass to Tumbling Creek, with a short side-hike along the way to Wolverine Pass. The third day was their shortest day, only 5 miles over Tumbling Pass, with 1100′ up and 2400′ down, during which they passed a massive lateral moraine on our way to Numa Creek. It rained off and on the first half of the trek but then stopped raining and eventually cleared for the grandest spectacles on the fourth day, Numa Pass and Floe Lake. This was probably their toughest day with 6 miles, 2500′ gain and 800′ loss. They had long views north and south from Numa Pass of many mountains and of Floe Lake with its adjacent mountains, snow and glaciers reflecting in it. The last day was 7 miles with 2300′ of elevation loss through a large prior forest fire area along a beautiful glacial stream choked with burned and blown down trees. They took their time on this hike, averaging 1-1 1/2 miles an hour, always taking longer than their original estimates, due to the scenery, trail conditions (lots of trees to climb over and rivers to cross) and tiredness – the packs tended to get heavier every day and towards the end of each hike, despite consuming their food stores. Doug was very grateful for the fun and support of their little team.

Saturday July 23rd after picking up Doug at the Toronto airport from his flight from Calgary, we drove to Kingston, Ontario to stay at Fran’s sisters while visiting her mom daily for a week. Josh and the grandkids drove over with us so they could see her for a short visit and then they returned home after a swim in the pool at Cynthia’s.

During the week of the 24th, Fran spent time with her mom each afternoon at her retirement home in Amherstview, just a little east of Kingston.  On Monday our friends, Maria & Bruno from Toronto dropped in for dinner and stayed the night with us. It was fun to play cards with them like old times.  We took in the new Jason Bourne movie one night as well.

On Saturday afternoon, the 30th, Josh came back to Kingston and spent the night with us at Cynthia’s house and on Sunday we all packed up and headed back to Toronto with another short visit in Amherstview with Fran’s mom.

Here is a pic of Josh & Fran in pool at Cynthia’s house with Arya & Cyrus – we know, we know, you can’t see faces of kids but we have been asked not to post them so below is a link to our Flickr page with uncopiable photos.

DSCN3324   (copy and paste this into a new page)

We spent the next three days playing with Arya & Cyrus including one day at Canada’s Wonderland.  Josh has a family season’s pass and the kids enjoyed taking us on all their favourite rides in Planet Snoopy.  The day was picture perfect weather-wise and after a late lunch we went back to our hotel where the kids enjoyed a bubble bath and a swim in the hotel pool.

Wednesday, August 3rd, we flew back to GTM. It was hard to say “hasta luego” to our favourite three year olds (and Josh!) but we will be back in about six months. Afraid we’ve gotten used to a lot of mod cons that we are going to have to miss once again: toilet seats, fast wifi, good roads, only the odd speed bump, toilet paper in public bathrooms, hot water in showers, among others. But that’s part of the adventure, right?  As Fran needs a little dental work done, and it’s a quarter of the price in Guatemala, we will be spending another week there before moving on.