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Visits to Family in British Columbia

May 29th, 2023

We were out the door by 7am today in Reno; Serena was up and got Kurt up to say goodbye again and we began our 1352 km / 840 mi drive to New Westminster, BC.   This is where Doug’s mom lives in a home and we wanted to visit her before heading to the island and then when we return to the lower mainland of BC, we’ll visit again.

Monday’s drive went very smoothly, and we made it about halfway as planned to a hotel in Eugene, Oregon by midafternoon.  This was the exact same drive we did back in December when we moved our stuff in storage from Washington State to Nevada.  The big difference was there was NO snow (or rain) this time!  A much faster drive for sure!

Tuesday, we were up early to hit the road as we had a few stops to make today.  While in Reno Doug had a few blood tests done and Fran wanted the same ones done so we managed to “purchase” the orders, and found a lab to get them done at south of Seattle.  After gassing up at Costco, we made it in time for her appointment and she was in an out even before her appointment time.

We had made plans to have dinner with a friend and his family north of Seattle and wanted to get some groceries for our time in Canada (mostly dry goods) as they are cheaper in the US and enroute to the store, Doug realized we’d be passing by the ocularist that had designed his prosthetic eye and it was passed due for a polishing.  On the off chance, they had time today, (or on our way back through), he called and they could fit him in at 1 which worked for us.

We arrived early, and took a walk before he was attended to and then continued north to a Walmart near the place we were meeting, Alex, and got our shopping done as well as some steps.  We met up with Alex, his wife, Kristy and their two young kids, Knox and Bruce, at six and enjoyed a pizza and beer at Conto’s before their kids got fussy after about an hour.

After saying goodbye, we pushed on northward, stopping in Bellingham at Costco once again to fill up before crossing the border right after sunset.  The border crossing was uneventful and fast and we made it to our hotel in New Westminster around 9:20 pm just before it got completely dark.

Wednesday, again we were up early as our plan was to take Doug’s mother, Doreen, some breakfast and have a visit.  That all went well but we arrived a bit too early, as she was not quite up yet; a staff member took us up (we had to check in and wear masks) and then another staff member came and got her dressed and in her wheelchair.  We took her down the hall to a little room with lots of windows to chat and eat.

After about an hour, we left her telling her we’d be back next week and made our way to the ferry terminal to get to the island, hoping to catch the eleven o’clock ferry without a reservation.  Turns out we just missed the ten by five minutes but that was okay.  We had plans to meet friends on the island at their house for after one so the timing went according to plan.

It’s gotten a bit cooler as we’ve headed north (no big surprise) although this area had quite a heat wave a couple of weeks ago.  We encountered no rain on the drive but, but as seems to happen to us, it was overcast in the Seattle area.

We had a nice lunch with our Kiwi friends, Marg & Claude at their house and then headed down island to Doug’s brother, D’Arcy’s for the duration of our stay in Victoria.  He was home and he got us settled in his room downstairs.  His girlfriend, Jess, joined us and D’Arcy BBQed some chicken and veggies for dinner.  He’s made a good number of improvements on his house since we’d been here in 2020 and it’s nice to see him doing so well.

From this point on, we are embarrassed to admit we nearly always forgot to take photos when we visited our friends! 

Thursday, Fran went over to the passport office to get her renewal sorted out (she’d tried twice from the US via mail both times the photos had issues) and after being told that as she was now applying in person in country, she needed new photos completely.  Luckily, there’s a photo place right next door to the office so that got done and she was told it would only take ten days to process so we’ll see….. we will be in South Dakota at the end of the month, so it should, in theory, be sitting in our mailbox there; otherwise we will get the mail sent to Serena’s again before we leave.

For lunch we met up with our old friends, Trish and Ted, whom we’ve known since before we were married, for lunch at a pub near D’Arcy’s.  We caught up on things since we’d seen them last, also, in 2020.  Always good to meet up with friend’s you known for around 40 years!

That night for dinner, we went to Doug’s uncle Dave’s.  Marlaine and their daughter, Marnie, were there and they made us a yummy salmon (that they had caught) dinner complete with lemon meringue pie and we caught up on their goings on’s.

Friday we had a morning to ourselves and then D’Arcy came home early with his younger daughter, Sophie, who is 15 and lives part time with her mom.  His older daughter, Emma, lives with him and we had seen her briefly a couple of times but she works full time and is out most of the time.

D’Arcy brought Sophie over after school for a short visit and we gave her and Emma the coins we’ve been collecting (like we do with our grandkids).  She’s so grown up now – last we saw them was in 2020 when we quarantined here during COVID.

D’Arcy’s house – front and backyard:

That evening we went to Doug’s sister Dana’s house for dinner with her and Mark.  They made us a nice bbq teriyaki chicken dinner and again, we caught up as although we’d just seen them at the wedding last weekend, there was only so much time to chat.

Saturday morning Fran picked over D’Arcy’s rhubarb patch and made him 30 tarts and some stewed rhubarb – always good on toast or ice cream.  They both turned out pretty good.

After our usual late breakfast, we drove out to Sooke to walk Whiffen Spit; this is where Fran’s sisters and herself, erected a memorial bench to their father.  Fran learned a couple of months ago that the bench had been washed out to sea and they were going to replace it but had not done so as yet so we did walk out there to the spot and saw where the footings were still there.  Sooke District is supposed to send us the new location and a photo of the new plaque and bench.

the view from where the bench used to be across to the Olympic mountains in Washington State
on the footings remain

After that we went over to the nearby Best Western Prestige Hotel to meet some of Doug’s high school mates.  Doni came and we got seated and shortly after Steve showed up with his partner, Laura.  We sat for a couple of hours chatting on the outdoor patio of the bar in the sunshine. A very pleasant afternoon was had by all.

That night Fran had dinner plans with some of her high school mates. On our way back into Victoria, we stopped at Byron’s to say  hi to him and his wife Sharon, and it turned out Doug’s best man, Randy, had also just dropped in.  We had a short visit (we were returning the next day for a longer visit) and then she dropped Doug back at D’Arcy’s where he had dinner with him and Jessica.

Fran went over to Montana’s and meet Tracy, Sue, Cheryl, Rosemary and Leah for a catch up dinner.  One other woman couldn’t make it but it was a fun catch up.

Sunday afternoon we went back to Byron’s for some fresh crab that Randy had brought and a pineapple chicken bbq.  It was a feast.

The 3 hooligans:

We returned to D’Arcy’s that evening and had another quiet night.  He was so kind to give up his basement bedroom to us and it’s lovely and dark.  He does not live near a busy road and that makes it very quiet.  He lives near the Gorge River which has a lovely walking path along it and we made use of that for sure.

Monday was a quiet day to ourselves; after D’Arcy came home with Sophie, Emma got home from her job at Butchart Gardens, we took them out for dinner at a BC classic restaurant:  The White Spot.

Tuesday, was our last day in Victoria, Fran started the day making more tarts for D’Arcy to thank him some more for our lovely stay and after breakfast, we began the drive up island.  We stopped on the Malahat to enjoy the water/mountain views:

Our first stop northbound, was at Doug’s step brother Eric’s in Duncan.  He and Virginia have lived there about fifteen years and now both retired.  We sat outside on their nice patio enjoying ice tea and conversation.

By 4 we left and made our way a few kilometres to Crofton to see Doug’s high school friend, Stephanie who runs a BNB and she offered to put us up for the night.  After catching up a bit, we walked over to the local pub The Brass Bell, and treated her to dinner.

She has a lovely house with lovely views from a big second floor patio.

Wednesday morning we left and meandered just a bit further north to Nanaimo, where we chilled a bit at a park on the water before making our way to Doug’s brother, Dennis in Nanoose Bay.  While sitting there, we received a message from Passport Canada and called back.

Fran was told that since she’d dropped off her passport in person and wanted it sent to the US, there was an additional $100 fee!  WTH!  After chatting a bit, she asked if she could have it mailed to North Vancouver where we’ll be next week.  The lady said she’d send her a form to sign and return via email.  She’ll take care of that tonight.

Dennis and his wife Zenobia took us out for dinner in Nanaimo (The Browns Social House) and we spent the night in one of their downstairs bedrooms.  They own a 6.3 acre lot which when they bought it had a house on it but they built their dream house just up the road.   We caught up on the last three years and Dennis was off to work early the next day.   He runs his own foundation laying company and works around the island.

The weather continues to hold beautifully but a couple of fires have started on the island.  We had thought about going to Port Alberni on Thursday but the main road out there is closed due to a fire at Cameron Lake and it’s a four hour detour so we’ll not do that.

Thursday morning we went to nearby Brickyard Park to check out the view:

And then we went into Parksville and walked the beach:

Next we went over to Doug’s other brother, David’s, house.  They had just moved in (no internet yet) and when his wife, Carole, got home they took us out for dinner in Nanaimo again (Simonholt) where we had a nice dinner.  They have a small portable hot tub in their back yard and treated us to a soak – aahhhh.  It helped give us a great night’s sleep, that’s for sure.

We awoke Friday to on and off sprinkles – not enough rain to help the nearby fire but the sky seemed whiter than usual due to the smoke.  After David and Carole, left for work, we exercised, Fran went across the road to the grocery store for a couple of things and then we drove a whopping 8km / 5 mi to Coombs to the Billy Gruff Creamery we’d enjoyed so much when we were here in 2020.  We enjoyed some yummy ice cream and a donut.

That night we had booked an AirBNB in Coombs – it was a travel trailer near Goats on the Roof, where the ice cream is.  The owner let us check in two hours early at one pm.  It was a good day to stay indoors and catch up online cause by 4pm it was raining much harder and it was cooler, barely reaching the high of 18C / 65F.  The trailer has a queen island bed like our trailer but instead of a rear dinette with a couch, it has bunks in the back, a much larger bathroom and a slide out dinette.  It came complete with dishes, bedding etc., full hookups cause it’s here permanently and it has StarLink internet.

We had a very quiet although rainy night (we hope that helped with the forest fire) and next morning while Doug was out running, we heard from our old friend, Bill, who was on his way back to the island from visiting his daughter in Kamloops.  Turns out he was in Parksville and we could meet up this morning before he returned home to Holberg waaay up island.  We met at McDonald’s in Parksville and while we had breakfast, we caught up.  Only because Bill thought of it, we have a pic with him!  Thanks Bill!

So after that visit we too headed up island but we were only going as far as Comox (about an hour) and we took the old island highway rather than the fast newer Highway 19.

We arrived at Fran’s cousin, Mary’s house and her husband Gavin was actually home (we thought he’d be in Campbell River but the overcast skies meant no skydiving so he wasn’t flying).  We had  nice visit, then went to the pub where their daughter, Gillian, works for drinks and dinner.

We had booked the ferry for the next morning to get off the island and the weather had cleared up nicely.  We were making our way to Gibsons on the Sunshine Coast, where Fran’s sister, Sandra, now lives with her partner, Anna.  They had been in Sechelt for about a decade and just bought a new home this past winter that we’d never seen.  This part of the journey took two ferries:

one from Comox to Powell River:

and a second after a 25 minute drive to Saltry Bay and a 2.5 hour wait to Earl’s Cove:

Then it was an 80 km / 50 mi drive to their place.

We spent two nights here, did some catching up, some walking, and checked out the town before dinner and drinks in Gibsons the second night.  The weather was beautiful (up to 26C that second day) the entire visit until we left Tuesday morning when it became overcast once again and cooled off.

We did not book the ferry back to the mainland as we’d already spent a small fortune on the three ferries we’d take so far (105 + 73 + 81) and this ferry is actually free (you pay to come over) but if you want to reserve there’s a $15 charge.  We just left Sandra’s early enough and made the 11am sailing.

It’s only a 40 minute ferry ride to Horseshoe Bay northwest of Vancouver and there we get off the highway to go into the village to meet a former colleague of Doug’s, Richard, for lunch.  He took us to the golf course club house and while inside it did rain but stopped before we left.  Richard had us follow him to his have to have a boo and then we got back on the TransCanada to get to North Vancouver.

Here we are staying for ten days in two places; 3 nights at our good friends’, Therese & Pat, then 4 at Sandra’s north van apartment and then a further 3 back to our friends.

We have more family to visit and friends to meet up with.  Upon our arrival at Pat & Therese’s, we chatted for about an hour, Doug left to catch the sea bus and train to New Westminster where he met up with his university pal, Pete and tomorrow morning he’ll have a visit with his mom before returning.  Pat and Therese had plans for the night so they left Fran some dinner (so very kind!) and went out for the evening.

Wednesday it was quite overcast and cooler again.  Fran and Therese took a hike in Lynn Valley Park for over an hour after breakfast.  Doug walked to his mom’s nursing home in the morning from Pete’s and then made the long walk back to the North shore.

That night a friend of Therese’s joined us for dinner and then she and Therese went to a concert together.  Next day, Thursday, Doug went for his run and Therese took Fran on another hike out in Deep Cove to Cory Rock which although seemed to have endless stairs, the view was worth it:

We had a lovely salmon dinner with Therese and Pat that night and played some cards and games after dinner.  Next morning it was quite overcast and began typical misty Vancouver rain in the morning, got harder mid-morning and then was on and mist the rest of the day.  By 10 we packed up and moved over to Fran’s sister’s north shore apartment for four nights.  Fran’s passport arrived safely at Therese’s and it’s all good.  Phew!

Saturday was another dullish day – sun tried in the afternoon to come out but never quite made it nor did it warm up past about 17C / 63F.  We had a quiet day to ourselves, went to the library for a bit for Wi-Fi and picked up a few things for tomorrow’s dinner.

Sunday morning the day started with a zoom call with the kids for Father’s day and after exercise and tea time, we chilled till mid-afternoon when we headed down to Richmond to visit Fran’s godparents, Dick and Monique and their son, Bryan and his family (wife Heidi, kids: Sean and Molly) for dinner.  Bryan brought spaghetti sauce, we brought salad and dessert and we all made dinner for us.  Dick and Monique are getting on (she’s Fran’s mom’s younger sister in her late 80’s; Dick is in his early 90’s) and in the fall are moving into an seniors independent living complex where they will no longer have to cook for themselves and housekeeping will be provided.  They both still have their cognitive abilities and are mobile using walkers.  It had been five years since we’d seen them so it was nice to see that although they are aging (like us all) they are doing okay.  We made it a short visit as Fran’s aunt tires easily (she has rheumatoid arthritis) but we all caught up on what has been going on in our lives.

Monday started out gloomy as forecasted and the rain began mid-morning and continued all day.  Other than some walking, we stayed indoors until about 3 when Fran took the bus into downtown Vancouver to meet some friends for drinks and dinner.

tall trees in the nearby park:

Back in 1980 (before we were married) we moved to Vancouver so Doug could attend UBC (living in a dorm during first year) and Fran got an apartment and worked at a law firm in Kerrisdale for a few months but switched jobs to a firm downtown before year’s end.  Here she met up with a group of women who became fast friends.  Debbie, Pam, Sandy, Linda and Dina all joined her for dinner; the only one missing was our friend Gaye, who was globetrotting as she often did.  Fran met Debbie after she finished work and they went for drinks until 6 at which time they met with the rest of the “gang” for dinner.  We actually ate at the Cactus Club, right across the street from Bentall Three – where we used to work! It was like always and didn’t feel like five years since we’d seen each other!  We all caught on our families’ lives including weddings and grandchildren and after 2.5 hours they kicked us out!

Let’s hope we don’t wait another five years to see each other!  Cheers ladies!

Today we did laundry and cleaned up Sandra & Anna’s apartment before returning to Pat & Therese’s house for our final three nights in Canada.  We only had one more couple to visit so this part of the trip is winding down.  We will make one final visit to see Doug’s mom as well.

The next couple of days were a mixed bag weather wise until Thursday which was a glorious sunny day with promise for the next few days.

Wednesday and Thursday mornings Fran went for walks with Therese, Doug tried to do the BCMC – an uphill hike up Grouse Mountain similar to the Grouse Grind – meaning lots and lots of steps!  But it was closed so that didn’t pan out.

Wednesday afternoon Fran’s sister, Sandra was in town for the night so the two of them, went out for a walk and with a stop at Timmy’s.

That evening we drove into Burnaby to visit the parents of Serena’s best friend Becky (one of her bridesmaids), Judy & Shawn, and they also invited Becky and her fiancé, Evan.  We had a very pleasant evening catching up and were back in North Van with a stop at Walmart by 9pm.  We stayed up chatting with Pat & Therese for about an hour and then crashed.

Thursday was our final night in Canada and we took them out for a nice Italian dinner at a near local restaurant which turned out to be very good.  We are so appreciative of them opening their home to us for so long and treating us like family!

Friday morning we were up early and after Doug packed up the truck, we were on our way by 8 to head to New Westminster to see his mom once again before leaving Canada.  We brought her breakfast again but they had screwed up and already served her.  Although she’d not finished she didn’t eat much of what we brought but did enjoy the large diet coke!

We left before 10 and headed west towards Abbotsford to cross the border at Sumas, WA – there was a long section of terrible traffic due to volume and then it was all good.