Sunday, September 17, 2006

Grouse Mountain, Seattle, a dusting of snow in Montana, home for dinner, a SHOCKING CONFESSION, and a short summary

I expected Grouse Mountain to be a bit of a hiker’s refuge from the city, but no, it was very geared towards the vacating family. Complete with a big 'chalet' near the summit (which is reached via Gondola by your average tourist), a little zoo with Grizzlies, and regularly scheduled shows -ranging in levels of goofiness- for the kiddies. Such as the Canuck Lumberjackfest (I don't know if that's the name, but it should be). The Bird Show, which was a good bird show I have to admit, better than the ones I had previously endured. (Nothing against birds, I mean, they're awesome, but I can't says I find extreme pleasure in watching them do their thing. It's a good thing, but it's -theirs-, I suppose I just want to respect their privacy.)

Coming back over the border was again, a bit of a hassle. I was hoping that they would not let me in, resulting in me being a displaced citizen for years to come. Oh, to live the dream! But NO, they simply insisted on hassling me enough that I will now finally go and get my passport.

Since I had only passed through the city best known for Frasier, rain, and Microsoft, on my way up to the country best known for round bacon and Celin Dion; I stopped for an afternoon in the town I had so rudely neglected, before riding the tailwind back east.

I phone-texted (sp?) a friend when walking around aimless in downtown, who I knew was somewhat familiar with Seattle, about what I should see. She replied, without hesitation, the Library. Though I enjoy an occasional visit to the Library, I was skeptical about its value as a highlight of the city.

I was quite taken with it. Initially, I expected to spend about 30 minutes there, I spent about 3 hours just absorbing the form and function of the place. It's probably the most intriguing piece of architecture I've experienced as a whole, not that I'm a connoisseur, but nonetheless, it's awesome. The architect's name is Rem Koolhas, and you can sort of get an idea at

I did walk around Pike Market, found it as expected, except for the odd zoning. One block off the market (which is quite visitor friendly) is literally ONE BLOCK FULL of drug dealers. There were 8 guys, on this one block (right next to the Market!), standing around with, what was apparently, nefarious business dealings in mind.

3 of these fine fellows, one after another, walked along side me.

Them: Hey man, can I hook you up?

Me: No man, I'm good.

Them: Really? I got lots o'stuff...Hook you up?

Me: No man, I'm cool, don't need a thing...Really.

I think that the Canadian border crossing guards had set these guys up (see previous entry). They so wanted me to just try narcotics of some sort, that they went to great lengths to tempt me. Ah ha! I showed them; after refusing to fill my body with mood altering substances, I took refuge in a coffee shop where I ordered a Mocha with two extra shots of espresso.

On my way back east, it cooled down nicely to the 50's and rained in Washington (no big surprise) and then snowed a bit in the Montana mountains overnight! It couldn't have been planned better; a single vacation kicked off in Death Valley in middle of August, to end with a pleasant dusting of snow.

I stopped in Butte MT and Bismarck ND, before making it back for dinner with Ron and Nancy. Nancy made beef stroganoff, quite tasty. I’m now hanging with Henry and Darcy. Both couples were somewhat amused with the thicker than usual, vacation goatee.

So, I guess I'm done...huh? What's that?...What did I do in Montana and North Dakota? Well, you know, I just passed through...

OK...OK...Fine! Enough with these infernal interrogations! Enough, I say! You want to know the shocking truth!? Well, you can't, you probably can handle it, so here it goes.

I had some money left in the budget, so I not only stayed in hotels for my last two nights [audible gasp from you, the audience], but ones with jacuzzi tubs [extremely disturbed, long awkward silence]. Where I sipped warm brandy and read a novel (that which was hinted at in a previous entry)...for a shameless number of hours, before retiring to bed. I assure you that I find such decadent luxury enjoyable, only when juxtaposed with some degree of suffering. [deeply ashamed, and violent, sobbing from me; soon to begin] BWAH HAH HAH HAH...BHAAAAAH!

Summary: Best 5 weeks of my life. No reservations.

Stay tuned for the pics! Along with some more details. Warning: some of you may be subjected to a live vacation slide show; my deepest apologies.

(Oh…and thanks for the comments. I read every one whenever I logged on to the world wide information superhighway.)

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Those border crossing guards sure were interested in my trip

It was flattering!

Them: So, you've driven all the way from Minnesota to spend a day or two in Vancouver?

Me: Well, not directly; via Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, California, Oregon, and of course Washington...

Them: To spend a day or two in Vancouver?

Me: No...I'm on a big road trip.

Them: So what did you do in all those states?

You can see how I was taken with their interest! They asked me to recount the trip three different times. The fun part, we'll call it, was "name that date". Fortunately I had Wade's departure of Sep 3 fixed in my mind as a landmark. So inquisitive they were, they searched through Mr. Tibbs before chastising me for my lack of Birth Certificate and/or Passport. In the end though, they were quite efficient and kindly let me through.

Oh, the funniest, standing at The Tibby-

Them: Have you sir, any drugs in the car.

Me: No.

Them: Have you ever used drugs, sir?

Me: No.

Them: Have you ever tried drugs, sir?

Me: No.

Them: Really? You've never tried drugs?

Me: Ummmm, seriously, I'm totally clean.

Them: That's not what I asked you sir! Have you ever tried drugs!?

Me: No!

Them: Really!?

Me: [blank stare]

So here I am, close to downtown Vancouver. The city, ocean, and mountains all in close proximity. Oh, to have it all. It's gorgeous here and I wish I had more time, but I do have to go back to MN someday and start saving up more vacation time. I'm going to do the short hike (and maybe little Gondola ride) on Grouse Mountain. Or as the locals call it, the Grouse Grind. It's sunny now and looking as though I might have a clear view from the summit this afternoon. I'll probably have a late lunch/early dinner on Granville Island (one of the touristy hotspots) before heading back to the states and briefly seeing Seattle, before trekking back to MN through Idaho, Montana, and North Dakota (or as some have called it, Baja Manitoba).

How did I get here? Wow, thanks for asking, you're nearly as inquisitive as the crossing guards. After hanging with a friend (Steve Weber) who was coincidentally in San Jose on a business trip from MN, I came up highway 1 in CA, camped and hung out for a night and morning in the pleasantly funky little town of Eureka. Continued up the coast into Oregon, nice rocky shores and talked to some who said they spotted a couple whales. Camped about mid-state. Cut inland to Portland, had lunch and walked around town. Breezed though Seattle, which I'll get a better view of on the flip-flop, up to here.

Edit: Almost forgot - After leaving Malibu (which was difficult, I felt most at home there as anywhere on this trip), I went to hang out in West Hollywood, Hollywood (not quite as edgy as I expected), and Beverly Hills [that's where I want to be] (not really, that's a quote for those who aren't familiar with the reference).

I realize that I am not giving the Northwest its due, that's another trip, so many places...

Have I accepted the fact that I have to go back to my midwestern life? I'm working on it. Some told me that by the third or fourth week I would be ready to come home, that didn't happen. I do think that I've been gone long enough that life will have a restored freshness about it. My apartment, the cube, my MN friends and related activities, all have a nice foreign feeling to them.

Even the first two weeks of the vacation feel like a long time ago, it's cool. I've spent some quiet time just recounting the events while next to the campfire and in coffee shops.

I'll give an update once I get back to Mpls, and maybe have a link to an online photo album.

See some of you soon, and some of you a little later.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

First day standing!

After a couple of days of floundering by myself with the board out in the waves, I decided to take a lesson. The instructor, Mike (he's totally awesome, and I'd recommend him to anyone who's learning to surf in Malibu), had me standing and riding the wave in no time.

The water is best in the morning, nice a smooth with moderate and consistant waves. It's been crystal clear, if you watch you'll get a view of a seal or some dolphins. The surfers say that the seals will come right up next to you to say howdy when you're waiting for that next righteous wave.

Malibu isn't really even a suburb of LA, it feels like a small coastal town with two demographics. The very rich and the surf bums.

Interesting fyi for some: The congregation here is small, 30! And there isn't a spanish speaking congregation in Malibu (though there is in towns nearby). They have a large territory and a need for the bros. Who woulda thunk it? That one could go to Malibu to serve where there's a need? hmmmm...

Hanging out with a cool guy I met last night, Jake, at the local congregation. Playing basketball with him and a buddy now, we'll see how I do after a few hours of surfing. Met plenty of very laid back, and fun, folks here.

I'll be hitting the waves through the weekend, before my final week of western exploration. Not sure exactly on my route of return to MN, or how long I'll take. I'm planning on going north before heading east. How far north? we'll see.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Whitney Summited! and other events during Wade's visit

Wade and I, as planned, returned to the mountains (about a 7 hour drive) after picking him up from the airport. Though it doesn't look that long as the bird flies, one has to go north before coming back south due to the mountains.

The first night, we camped at the Whitney Portal up from Lone Pine (not a town named Porthole, dur). A nice campsite with other hikers for the next day with a little store nearby, at about 8.5. We met a cool guy named Jack, a geologist and ecologist who works for the Grand Canyon National Park and who was in the Sierras for some serious photography on a side project.

The first day we backpacked up to about 10.5 to the campsite known as the Outpost, it was nice, at about the point the trees are thinning and near a cool waterfall, some lakes, and wetlands.

The second day we went up to about 12 to sort of the Whitney basecamp, called Trail Camp, with the uppermost peak of Whitney towering above.

Day 3 was summit day. All above treeline and quite awesome. All hiking, but some of which Wade and I traversed with slow deliberateness. After hitting the summit, which had a summit register and a little emergency lightning hut. Many were on the summit, some of which were doing the major grind of a dayhike. The communal quality of being at the summit with other climbers is something to be experienced. Strangers giving each other high-5's with no other greeting, stuff like that. It was slightly overcast with high clouds, so our view was unobscured, but it was windy and cold, so we didn't dally but for 20-30 minutes.

After summiting we returned to Trail Camp and tore down camp and decided to return (with backpacks) all the way down. It was long and tough, but we did it. It was dark before we got back down so we followed another hiker with a headlamp.

Overall it was definitely the coolest and most diverse hike I've done. With plenty of different rock formations, alpine lakes, waterfalls, etc. Unlike the central CO mountains I am used to, the Whitney summit feels way higher that the other peaks nearby, so the summit views themselves are different. Less a continuous sea of mountains and more of a varied landscape of shorter mountains, lakes, and valleys.

We treated ourselves to a cheap motel after a late night breakfast at Denny's. The next day we drove back through Yosemite and camped there. The camping was silly car-camping but the park, of course, was worth visiting. Unique rock formations and we took a little walk of a few miles into a grove of giant sequoias.

After Yosemite we made our way to Napa Valley, where we camped and visited the quaint town of St. Helena and did some tasting at the Merryvale winery. I asked our expert, Kris, a gazillion questions for about 3 hours and have already forgotten the amazing answers she provided. She ended up selling me one of their best bottles of Cabernet. I realize that this is far out of the low-budget aesthetic of the trip, but it was quite worth it.

We then returned to the San Francisco area, first going out to the coast, Stinson Beach for some frisbee and very good seafood. Then into the city for urban exploration (we drove down Lombard, went to Telegraph Hill and Twin Peaks, etc.), taking the ferry across to Sausalito, and then back for some good crablegs at Pier 39 (very touristy of course, but worth the visit).

Now, we are both sitting at a Starbucks, and I will be returning my hiking partner to the airport soon. I will then make my way down south for the surf.

Wade says: The trip far exceeded my expectations for adventure and beauty. Shawn is an easy person to travel with and his driving skills are second to none. (I'm not sure what that means) We packed in a lot of fun so I'll have a lot of good memories of this trip. California is fantastic! (that last sentence is meant to be said in a voice like Arnold Schwarzenegger)