Saturday, December 20, 2008

Snow on the Mountains

As I write this, the snow is falling outside, a winter snowfall warning is scheduled to descend on the lower mainland. I have been here for about 18 hours, having taken the overnight Greyhound from the Kootenays. Winter has not released its steely grip from the interior of BC, with winds and cold. The snow, therefore, has been minimal. Not such a happy time for the skiiers and snowboarders. During last night's journey, I travelled through most of southern BC, a total of 13 and a half hours, with only a smattering of sleep. There was much going on. Highlights included a fellow being arrested in Nelson, some very interesting travellers, and the temperature so cold on the Coquihalla that the front windshield of the bus froze. Brad, the bus driver who got us from Kelowna to Vancouver safely, said that the lowest temperature was minus 34. Yikes! I was glad that I brought along my blanket.

Tomorrow's plan is to go to Victoria, though there is some question whether that will happen as they too have a winter weather warning.

Snow, it seems, have quite the attraction for mountains. Some of the ski hills have snow depths of 10 and 12 feet in the midst of the winter. That means that some trees are well and truly buried under the white stuff. And they get winter much quicker than us in the valleys.

In October, I saw some of this evidence. When I was coming back from San Francisco, I got a beautiful view of snow having arrived. From my plane window, I saw two mountain tops. Later, I deducted that I had seen both Mt St Helens, the volcano that erupted in 1980, and Mt Rainier, which is the volcano that can be seen from Seattle.

Here are the both of them...

In the foreground is Mt St Helens.

Here is Mt St Helens as we moved closer... If you look carefully, you can see the other side is non-existent, the effects of that eruption over 28 years ago. The month of May. The same week my marriage disintegrated.

Even later, we went over top of Mt Rainier, which has plenty of snow...

The next morning, I travelled from Spokane to Nelson, amidst the beautiful fall colours...

That feels like an eternity ago. I am going to look at the snow falling outside now, and then to sleep for tomorrow's adventures.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

The Tina Pics Have Arrived!

Since we were the only ones at the Tina Turner concert in October without cameras, both Aimee and I were very hopeful about the photographic ability of her new cell phone. Alas, the real problem Aimee discovered, when she got home, was getting those photos off of that camera. She called for reinforcements and now we have the event documented via pictures.

Here's the San Jose Pavilion filling up, a view from our seat....

And here's Tina...

And here she is in her Beyond the Thunderdome costume; again, she is on a raised platform without handrails...

To the tune of Nutbush City Limits...

Yep.... no handrails...


Aimee introduces me to a Lemon Drop.

A happy fan...

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Riding the Streets of San Francisco

Our first full day in SF, Ryan suggested that we get a passport ticket, which allows a person to ride the public transportation system for a full day. The cost is $11.00. As we were busy in San Jose and chauffeured by Ryan, we didn't use our passport until our last full day. We began our day taking a street car to the pier for our tour to Alcatraz. $1.25

A few hours later, Julie met us at the Pier and we had lunch and did the city tour. We were done at 6:00 pm. And we had only spent $1.25 of our $11.00.

We decided to take the cable car to the shops - the cost - $5.00.

Ryan met us at the other end and we had the BEST Thai food ever, shopped, and then it was 9 pm. And we had only spent $6.25.

We decided to not squander our passport so we caught the cable to Fisherman's Wharf (another $5) and then lined straight away to catch it back ($5.00).

The streets the cable cars travel on are not exactly flat...

As you can tell most of our riding was done at night. I saw a laundromat called - Missing Sock, beautiful buildings, and we experienced a whole lot of fresh air. We rode standing...

Hanging on the outside of a cable car is an experience! In a way it is more comfortable than sitting on a seat, and sliding your way into the next passenger as we went either up or down a hill.

The Cable Cars of San Francisco keep their operators busy - there is a lot of levers, and pedals and cranks. No fossil-burning products - it is earth friendly.
By the time, we made it back to the shop-end of Powell Street, it was an hour from midnight - we were exhausted as we had been out for over 12 hours. Our passport was about to expire. We caught the train home ($1.25 on the passport), and were back in the neighbourhood by midnight.

Total expenditures on the passport - $17.50!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Ryan's SF Apartment

Now is a month after Aimee and my big adventure in California - when we originally booked the Tina Turner concert, Ryan was living well and truly in Seattle. And then life, as it does, shifted and Ryan (and Julie) moved to San Francisco to a new job with a company called Stumbleupon. They do the searching on the web for you.

Years ago when Ryan moved to Seattle, I just happened to be there on holidays when his papers came through - and so I met him at the airport.

This time, he (and Julia and Aimee who had already landed) met me at the Oakland airport. We had the double bill of seeing the concert and exploring Ryan's new world! And apartment - both him and Julie spent some serious time finding the perfect place, and were all moved in by the time we got there.

The apartment is very bright - windows in every room - even the closet. The closet is a walk in with two doors, which got me to thinking about the designer, and how that came about. The most intriguing window is in the bathroom - it is covered with a film so no one can see in (or out I suppose) when the window is closed - the window opens into an air duct which is about 2 feet by 2 feet and is open right to the sky. Is it an air duct or a light duct?? It does both. Directly across is another window, which was mostly ajar (as was ours when someone took a shower).

When I opened the window for my shower, each time I saw the bare midriff of a young man. Others in our place said they said it too. That was a lot of showers. And then it occurred to me that perhaps it was a different midriff each time. More than one roommate?

Really, though, here is where we spent most of the time...

This view is looking towards the bedroom - yes, there is French doors to the bedroom. In the corner is Ryan's work station.

This view is of the living room looking towards the front door, and vestibule. Ryan's new couch - hideabed - and underneath it a new carpet protecting the lovely hardwood floors!

And here is the kitchen...

Notable in a different way is the elevator. It actually has a door to it, on each floor. That might give a bit of a time period when it was made. As is such in these places, one says a little prayer as they push the button. The underground parking has space for 7 vehicles, very cozy - but it is not as cozy as the laneway into the parkade (I'm thinking parkade might not be the right word). Say a little prayer for the side mirrors.

One of the best selling features of the place is its location - close to Starbucks and Jamba Juice, and public transportation. And really not that far from Trader Joe's.... how perfect is that???

Thursday, November 13, 2008

A Land Far Away

This weekend was the anniversary date of Ryan, Aimee and I leaving Manitoba for the mountains in the West. We officially left Manitoba on November 11th, so nobody would forget us. We landed in our new home at the end of the following day, so the anniversary date is November 12th.

That was 14 years ago. It seems both like a long time ago, and a short time.

Earlier on November 12th, 1994, we left Medicine Hat, and found snow in the East Kootenays. I can remember sitting in a restaurant in Fernie BC, and seeing snow up the sides of the mountain, and the snow meeting clouds. I had no idea what was above that line. What I learned over the years is that clouds are very greedy with mountains - they like to hold on tight to them in the winter.

By the time we started ascending the Kootenay Pass, the snow was falling - it got heavier the more we climbed. Our friend Ron and Ryan (who was 17 at the time) were in the rental truck ahead; I followed in my Toyota Tercel. Never for a moment did I think about the fact that I didn't have winter tires. Now, I wouldn't dream of climbing that Summit without my "winters."

In the car with me was Aimee (age 15), our dog Portia and the cat Nina. By the time we crawled our way to the Summit, the light was gone from the sky. Everywhere was white. Portia crawled onto Aimee's knee, and they both looked out the side window. All was quiet; my eyes never left the road. Out of the silence, I heard Aimee's voice - "Look, Toto. We're not in Kansas anymore."

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

A Long Weekend in Spokane

Because I worked Saturday of the previous week, I took off Monday as a lieu day, and that gave me four days off in a row. I followed my second year tradition of spending this weekend starting my Christmas shopping in Spokane. Aimee, who is a very smart shopper (and very smart in many other areas as well) advises that there are many problems with starting Christmas shopping in December. #1 is that many other people are doing that too so there are crowds. #2 is that this is not when the sales are. And it is always crazy busy enough already.

All in all, my shopping was not as successful as last year. Though I spent over $200, I wasn't really inspired. You know that kind of inspired - where you can hardly wait until you get to see their faces when they open their gift. I did find one inspiring gift but it appears that it might need to be returned.

As in the rich tradition of Christmas shopping, I bought myself a gift. A book that I had misplaced, and so I decided it was time to replace it. Now there is an interesting addition to this story because when I was having my dinner this evening, I tipped my glass and it spilled on the bookshelf (all have been rescued, I am relieved to say), and then I noticed that the misplaced book was indeed on the bookshelf. Right where I looked for it before.

There were a lot of sales in Spokane so I went through the papers on Sunday morning, and cut out coupons for my next two days. At JC Penney, I had not bought a $50 item so thought I could not use the $10 coupon. When I got to the cashier, she totalled my purchases and they came to $45 - she said I could have used the coupon if it added up to $50. *sigh* When I went to Michael's today, they told me that my item was on sale so I could not use their 50% off coupon. And when I looked at the Borders coupon today, it expired yesterday.

So, I bought a gift that needs to be returned, a book that I have already, and couldn't use any of the coupons that I diligently cut out.

I hope your weekend was more productive.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

The Streets of San Francisco

The first night I was in San Francisco, Ryan took us on a tour of the city after our time at the beach. The San Francisco that I had seen so far was nothing like the movies. I had imagined being on the top of a hill and looking down at city and water, and though we had found our way to the water, it was relatively flat. What else I noticed was that the houses and buildings were not that tall, for such a large city; they were close together and there were a lot of stairs. So our driver, Ryan, took us downtown. What I realized after getting my bearings was that the water in all the movies and television shows is actually San Francisco Bay, and not the ocean. Here's our first view of the Bay....

There are hills in San Francisco - there is Russian Hill, Knob Hill, and as Ryan said, if there was a lot of precipitation there, it would be a problem. Here is a down view...

As you can see, cars are parked in a rather unique way. Great idea as it is difficult to slide sideways.

There is also up...

Here is a leap of faith in that there is something on the other side. To me, the painted STOP on the road almost looks like a vertical sign.

Ryan also took us to Lombard Street, a favourite for people touring San Francisco. The sight to see is a part of the street that has 8 switchbacks - it is called the Crookedest Street in the US. Ryan was delighted to take us down the hill, and in keeping with his hidden desire to be a Nascar race car driver, we zoomed down the street. I protested as I was so occupied with putting on the imaginary brakes and swirling around the corners, I couldn't see a thing. He had a lot more faith in the brakes than I did. At the bottom we joined the many photographers.

Monday, November 03, 2008

The Sights of San Francisco

Julie met us when our boat arrived at Pier 33 and we were off to Pier 39 where all the action is. When Julie first came to visit San Francisco, she took and tour of the city so she did some research on the street to see if they were still around. How does a city tour sound? We were inspired and after some sweet talking a different tour company, they decided that I could have the child rate. And that is how we met Vance. The three of us were the last tour of the day, and as it turns out, Vance's only customers. He pronounced Julie's name like this - Jewel-y. Our mode of transportation...

A motorized cable car. Vance had a lot to tell us. Also to others on the street because there were no doors or windows and Vance talked to everyone. To one woman who walked in front of the bus he said, "See, girls, I told you there would be celebrities on the tour."

This is a six-sided building - Think of all the light in that house...

The Transamerica Pyramid - the tallest building in San Francisco. Apparently only 2 of the 18 elevators go to the top.

On the Golden Gate Bridge. At last we get to experience it by daylight.

From the north side...

At this viewpoint, there are several coin-operated binoculars. We inserted our two quarters and then, maneuvered our cameras to get the picture. Here's what we saw, through the looking glass...

And here is a different view of Alcatraz...

We also got to see China Town, the Crookedest Street, North Beach (where I would love to hang out), many beautiful, huge homes, parks, and churches...

This church's address is 666 Filbert Street. (hmmm...)

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Touring Alcatraz

Monday morning in San Francisco, Aimée and I caught the street car to Fisherman's Wharf for our sailing to Alcatraz Island, one of the popular attractions in the city. Before this journey, I had not realized that Alcatraz is THAT close to the city - indeed it is a 12 minute boat ride. The island has served a variety of uses over the years including military prison and an American Indian occupation (1964 and 1969 to 1971).

One statement about Alcatraz I saw that day was, "If you break the rules, you go to prison. If you break the prison rules, you go to Alcatraz." Indeed as a penitentiary, it housed some fierce dudes. It was a federal prison from 1934 to 1963.

The island was named by a Spanish explorer who saw the pelicans and called it, "Isla de los Alcatraces."

Our tour began at the dock with an introduction and stories by the Ranger. Apparently the first prisoner on Alcatraz was a Canadian from Montreal. Oh, our rowdy ancestors. From the landing area, we saw a guard tower - there used to be 6 on the island.

From there, up we went to see the features of the island - such as the cellhouse, warden's house, morgue, barracks, and various other buildings. One of the focal points is an audio tour of the cellhouse; at the beginning, each person gets a headset and MP3 player and listens to the stories and instructions. At any point, a person can pause the tour. We got to see the cells:

And Cell Block D (solitary confinement)...

This is definitely not her kind of place.

The prisoners spent their time:
- in a regimented way - for example, 20 minutes for meals, and did the same thing every day at the same time (not a good place for a Perceiving personality type).
- knitting, painting, writing.
- reading books!

To see a larger image, click in the centre of the picture.

The civilian population of "The Rock" was about 200 people, which included staff and their families. There were enough apartments and cottages for 60 families and 10 bachelors. At times there were up to 75 children living on the island; each morning a boat would come and take the children to school in San Francisco, and then they returned home every night. Apparently, the families never locked their doors... egads!

Here is a view of the entire island, from a Golden Gate viewpoint...

not a lot of space for 75 children... The tallest, long building is the cellhouse.

Three hours we wandered around Alcatraz, hearing stories of escape attempts, the famous prisoners, and infamous wardens. It was quite engaging, well put together, and worth the trip. There's lots of humour about the joint...

In the city, we saw t-shirts with this message: The Hotel Alcatraz - Guaranteed Room With a View - 24 Hour Security - Lifetime Accommodation - Catering to Select Clientele - Bars in Every Room - All Drinks Are on the Rocks.

After our tour, we headed back to San Francisco; this was our view of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge.

This bridge is a two-tiered (traffic going towards San Francisco are on the up part of the bridge - traffic going to Oakland travel on the deck directly below), toll bridge that is 4.5 miles long. Technically it is two bridges. This was our route to go to the airport in Oakland. Apparently 270,000 vehicles cross this bridge every day!

When we landed, Julie met us - with a plan - adventure 2 of this day to follow....

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Do You Know the Way to San José?

A week ago, I was sitting in the HP Pavilion listening and rocking to Tina Turner. John and Martha sat on my right - they had seen Tina in concert 8 times over the years, and had tickets for the following night as well. "If she can do a whole tour," John said, "then we can come two nights."

There was much to see at this concert - on stage and off. The audience was such an array of people - the couple in row ahead of us had just come back from a quiet journey to China - they were in shock in the midst of all this rock and roll; there were groups of gal-pals; one woman left her child and family at home and had come alone (she had apparently found the bar as well); there were many men (Tina had them sing - what's love got to do with it); there were dressed up people with expensive adornments; and mostly there was a whole lot of enthusiastic people.

The show was a massive coordination, with fireworks, shooting flames, acrobatics and platforms that rose up and out into the audience. For the second last song, Nutbush City Limits, Tina was in a "cherry picker" machine that extended out 20 rows into the audience. At some point, she walked the length of the two-foot wide "arm" of the machine and then danced her way back to the end with a basket.

Here is a YouTube view of her on the platform from a previous tour:

Nutbush City Limits

And what a lot of work! We bought the program for the event, and the credits include 18 truck drivers!

Speaking of all the background support, there were a lot of helpers in getting us to Tina. Josh and Al got us to and from the airports safely (thank you!), Ryan met us in Oakland and showed us around San Francisco (thank you!)

The day of the show, Ryan and Julie got us to San José, and now I can assuredly say that I do know the way. San José is one hour from San Francisco, and so once they dropped us off at the Pavilion, they entertained themselves in San José with dining and shopping and text messaging us. At some point, Ryan called and Aimée held up the phone and he heard some of Proud Mary.

And he took pictures for us...

Speaking of pictures, as you can see on the ticket, it explicitly says not to bring in cameras, so we left ours with Ryan. And then when we got seated, we could see that many, many people had cameras. (And Aimée had a picture-taking phone.) The ticket taker said, "oh, yes, small cameras are OK." Note to others: bring your camera.

It was quite the show that you would want to take pictures - Tina is one picture-taking kind of act. On some website, I read a headline, "What's age got to do with it?" Indeed, as you can see, Tina is looking pretty fit... (this picture is from this year's tour)

With dazzling clothing as well, and shoes! She came out with shoes by Christian Louboutin; the signature of his shoes is that they have a red sole. According to a show on Oprah, these are the most comfortable high heels a gal can have. The cost? Let's just say, they are bourgee.

I asked Aimée what was the most surprising part of the show - she said, "That it was so theatrical." For me, I was most surprised (and delighted) to find out that there was no introductory bands/singers - we got 100% Tina. And we got a view of the crowd that was spectacular. 14,000 people (this would be a good deal more than the population of Nelson). Tina is famous for having sold more concert tickets than any other solo performer in music's history. And this all started when she was hired as a back up singer. Clearly that role was too small for her.

We saw her on Day 19 of her tour - she has several more weeks, and then after the new year is heading to Europe. Lots of time to get your tickets. It is definitely worth the trip!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Simply the Best

Tina Turner is AMAZING! Her newest tour is a full blend of her powerful voice, glittery costumes, and delightful theatrics, in the midst of her familiar songs. Memorable songs: Proud Mary (this brought the house to their feet), Simply the Best, We Don't Need Another Hero, What's Love Got to Do With It, Better Be Good to Me...

Actually, they were all memorable.

When the curtains opened, there was a roar from the crowd- I felt a rush of excitement. And then, she was there!

She danced, and she walked the stage; she was lifted in the air on platforms, all of this in several pairs of the most colourful high heels. I doubt that her legs have changed at all in the last 8 years since she did performances - they are compelling, and I am guessing, 100% muscle.

Inspiring - perhaps because of her age (69) or her voice or how she has weaved her way through our lives - a few decades of great dance music - her music has transcended age.

I will always treasure that Aimee and I did this together - what a grand shared memory!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Day Two in San Francisco

Woke up this morning in Ryan's sunny apartment, and then went downtown via Muni - the train system. I have officially taken planes, trains and automobiles on my vacation. We got to see Ryan's new work digs...

Here is the greeting at the door entrance to his work...

Then we were off to the shops. We found our way to cosmetics at Bloomingdales.

And many other shops. I needed to find shoes for the big do tonight. And I was out of facial tissues (yep - the cold is still with me).

After sunset, we all took our cameras and went out into San Francisco at night. This view is from a place called Twin Peaks.

And the Golden Gate Bridge - the bridge that brings us from the north into San Francisco...

View with Ryan's camera...

And here we all are...

Saturday, October 18, 2008

8 Hours Later

after I landed in Oakland, I got to see Ryan's new apartment in San Francisco (which is very funky and comfy with the new couch and furnishings).

What happened in those 8 hours is the topic of this posting.

The mother-daughter team are off on their grand adventure!!

Here are our hosts...

who did their move to San Francisco between our big adventure plans and our arrival - gotta love that synchronicity.

I arrived in the mid-afternoon, pre-planned to avoid all the traffic. I had Immediately, I could see we were in a different land...

On our way to San Francisco...

We found our way to the Haight-Ashbury District of San Francisco where we found a delightful Thai place for lunch. Then we were off to the beach...

We came across this gal... (we know this because Julie has gone crabbing with her parents - when you crab, you have to know which are male and female because the female ones over a certain size have to go back into the sea). In the spirit of doing one thing a day that I have never done before, I followed Julie's lead.

And then it did this... (Click on the arrow at the bottom left corner of the screen.)

We saw many gifts from the sea:

Update on the cold: The plane had one stop and the up and down twice was a pain - literally. Luckily when I was in Spokane, Al had given me a blister pack of decongestants - I took another in Portland. There was a moment at the beach where I realized that maybe being in cold ocean water wasn't such a good idea...

If you happen to be one of those people who want to do it all, then walking in the California surf is a GREAT idea!