Tips For a Better Vacation

Mayne Island photograph, BC, 2018
Mayne Island photograph, BC, 2018
Mayne Island Japanese Memorial Garden

Or Photography for Fun

I have a theory. Taking pictures makes vacationing more fun.

Ok, stay with me here for a moment. I’m not saying ‘live behind a camera’ and go around filming every little event (errr, wait, urm, I do that, but that’s not what I’m saying.)

What I am saying is that by taking a camera (in this modern age, most likely your cell phone camera), and walking around with the idea that you’re going to take some amazing pictures, that camera takes you MORE into the moment and forces you to look, (I mean, really LOOK) at the world around you.

Now, I’ve got a few friends who are incredible photographers and if you ever get a chance, check them out (I have links at the bottom of the blog) but I know from talking to them that part of any great trip is keeping an eye open for a great picture.

Lemme give you an example. When The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World and I were taking a walk on Mayne Island, we decided to do this. The walk could have been done in ½ an hour, but we took a full hour, maybe more, as we took the time to look at an old stone hut, at the way the light speared through the trees, at the way the sun sparkled off the ocean or the kingfishers took flight.

And take a picture.

Mayne Island tree. BC. Photography.
The lumpiest tree I’ve seen in a long while. Mayne Island.

We found a tree that looked like it was giving birth to other trees. We found a spooky-ass spider hiding in his web (that I almost walked into because I was looking at that stone hut.) We found incredible rock formations sculpted by water. We found picturesque driftwood and spent a while punning it (The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World won with her, “Trying to think of a good driftwood pun but I’m stumped,” comment.)

Taking photos slows down time for you. In our rush-rush world, it’s so easy to miss what’s all around us. But by taking the time to look for cool pictures, every little trail you walk on becomes a chance to see something new, or odd or beautiful or terrifying.

So, this is one of the things we’re doing on our relaxing vacation – Taking time to visually smell the roses.

Check out what we’re seeing on Instagram.

Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World (https://www.instagram.com/mecorinne/?hl=en)

Me: https://www.instagram.com/justjoebc/?hl=en

Darren Lee https://www.facebook.com/search/top/?q=dc%20lee%20photos

Vespa (https://www.facebook.com/thefactionhouse/?eid=ARBVmP7dec7wZ__iqPzmX2rylc7jPiWIt1r8PmWqV6dYsMhiqc-AFeZsLUEBNmq3ZU_HNbtALitdXynO&timeline_context_item_type=intro_card_work&timeline_context_item_source=1375481955&fref=tag

Allison (and check out her absolutely incredible blog) https://www.instagram.com/alisonarmstrong6558/?hl=en

Wendy https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10155670171170777&set=t.629780776&type=3&theater

 

 

 

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Mayne Island Getaway

parenting meme
parenting meme
Ah, parenting, the greatest thing we’ll do in our lives. Yes?

I think one of the things guys/boyfriends/husbands/stepdads/gigolos don’t realize is how much work and stress goes into being a mom.

Now that’s not to say that we don’t have our own challenges, stresses or times when we need a break, but moms take on a lot more than they let on.

So, every so often, it’s good to get away from the kids, the dog, the house. Good to get away from all those things that stack up in a mom’s mind and weigh her down.

But going away together also gives us a chance to reconnect as a couple. You might think, well, couldn’t we do that at home? And the simple answer is, not always. In fact, not often.

See, as amazing an experience as being a parent can be, kids can also become the focus of your lives. You worry about them, you nag them, advise them, encourage them, praise them, tease them, make them eat their vegetables, make them take their vitamins and do their homework, make them go to bed on time, take them to hockey games, classical music concerts, out to mountain bike courses, watch Rick and Morty with them, read to them, laugh with them, try to raise them right, and after they’ve gone to bed, you talk about them.

It’s what parents do.

So this year, time and money being tight, we chose to go to Mayne Island for our anniversary. Our 2nd.

I’d never been to Mayne Island before, despite it being part of the Gulf Islands which are not that far away. We chose Mayne over the other islands because it seemed calmer, like a place a stoned sloth would go to relax. Because relaxing was what this mini-trip would be about.

As anyone who’s read my blog knows, I love to plan things out. You know, see all that there is to see, do all that there is to do. But on a relaxing vacation, I must put this aside and simply book the hotel and ferries, then sit back and see what happens. Play it by ear. Wing it.

mayne island resort view, gulf islands 2018
Mayne Island Resort 2018

So here was my plan. Get off the ferry. Drive to hotel. Return to ferry in 2 days.

Sad, right, but also relaxing. No stress of having to be up at 8 to get a kayak. No tour bus to board at 10. No movie at 7.  We could eat when we wanted, watch the ocean do oceanie things, maybe go for a walk, read, write, hold hands, breathe in the fresh, salt air, talk, listen to the silence and take pictures of natural things like huge, frightening spiders.

In other words, reconnect and give mom a chance to recharge a bit.

Our hotel, the Mayne Island Resort. Quiet. Quaint.

Mayne Island Resort would be the perfect place for this.

 

 

 

And hey, thanks for reading this!  

If you like what you’re reading, please follow on FB, subscribe to my blog, or check out my coming-soon newsletter. Or, heck, just tell your friends, your baker, your accountant and your barista. 

If you want to support a starving writer, check out the coffee link at the top right-hand corner of the website.

Small Town BC

Just a Small Town Boy….

Greenwood BC. Once a mining town, now a stop on the way to someplace else

I didn’t grow up in a small town, unless you count Victoria as a small town, but it’s really a small collection of municipalities constantly at war with each other over which one gets to dump sewage onto the other one’s ocean-front properties.

But I have a romantic view of small towns and traveling through BC, along highway 3, we got a chance to see a few. Some are dying, for sure, but others are newly painted, with a few quaint stores, all revitalized.

We drove through several small towns. Bridesville. Rock Creek. Midway, which may have been, you know, midway between Calgary and Vancouver (and really shouldn’t all towns have simple names like that?).

The-Oldest decided he wanted to live in a small town. It’s a simpler life. He could walk to town where everyone would know him and cheer as he entered the local coffee shop to play the piano. People would ask how he’s doing but not talk to him too much because they knew he was one of those talented artists and those people like to be left alone.

Plus, there would be a day set aside for him, a day that honored all the great compositions he had made, and maybe a parade on his birthday. Something with fireworks and a marching band.

I had to agree, based on that belief, small towns would be a great place to live. It’s something I like to do. It’s the ‘wouldn’t-it-be-cool-to-live-there?’ game.

Most places I think, yes, it would be ok, a few (like Cinque Terra in Italy), I think, hell yeah, I’d LOVE to live there and a few, like Duncan or Mogadishu, I think no way in hell.

In Greenwood, we stopped to take a picture and stretch our legs. It had a delightful collection of old wooden and stone buildings (all well painted and restored), a nifty mine to explore and an ice-cream shop. The-Youngest begged for ice cream but I have learned that if you feed an 11-year-old sugar and then take him on an 8-hour car drive, it’s a horror story akin to The Exorcist.

But that town made me think we should do a small town tour. Not with the boys, they would hate us forever, but maybe in our twilight years, just the two of us (or 3 if you include my robo-walker.)

It would be nice.

Grand Forks Town Hall
Grand Forks City Hall. That town has been through a lot.

In Grand Forks, we stopped for lunch. It was a larger town with businesses mostly strung out along the highway, but this quaint, attractive town had been ravaged by massive floods in the spring. It wasn’t exactly built on a low river bank and I was stunned the water could rise so far as to flood the town.

Still, there was a peacefulness to Grand Forks. No need to rush anywhere. No need to stress. A little oasis of calm.

But not far outside of town, we ran into an accident that shut down Highway 3. A fatal accident. One dead. Motorcyclist.

We were close to the accident but didn’t see it.

But even stuck in the line-up, no one honked, no one got angry, and we tried to have a good time despite The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World having a huge migraine – made worse by the altitude.

We had a laugh at the RCMP constable in funny shorts. He made his way down the line telling people it would be a while. Not sure how long, sorry, but a while for sure. You folks, ok?

Only in Canada, eh?

Outside of Grand Forks, BC, 2018
Playing Smash-Up at a smash up. Highway 3. BC.

While we waited the-Youngest pulled out his games and the boys played Smash-up, though I think The-Youngest used very generous interpretations of the rules to win.

Me, I thought about what it would have been like to see that accident, then stop, see the results and having no cell phone reception, do what? Drive down the mountain to the nearest town? Or what if they were still alive? Stay and be with the motorcyclist in their last moments on earth? Or leave to get help?

(It’s how we writers think.)

We were there for 2 hours.

I took over driving duties after they had cleared the accident, The-Youngest wanting to stop for ice cream at every town. We went through the very weird sounding Ootischenia (founded by Doukhobors), through Yahk, Castlegar and Salmo.

No ice cream bought.

We zipped past Creston and Moyie Lake and didn’t turn in for ice cream, but we finally stopped at DQ just outside of Cranbrook where The-Youngest decided he didn’t want ice cream after all.

Sigh.

Cranbrook, BC, 2018
Cranbrook. By the entrance to the downtown area.

The last stop was Cranbrook, a larger small town with a cute town center and a long collection of restaurants, gas stations and hotels along the highway.

We stopped at one of the hotels and the boys raced to the waterslides, the highlight of the day (planned by The-Youngest). The-Oldest tried to skip himself across the pool as far as he would go, while The-Youngest worked on getting down in the fastest time possible and cannon-balling himself into the water with a great splash.

After a long drive, I was glad to rest and just watch the boys play.

I love these moments when the boys get to be boys and just have fun. The car ride was ok, no blood was shed, no one threw up and only one person got a migraine, but the boys simply had no interest in towns or history or mine tours. For them, splashing and laughing and screaming down a waterslide trumps everything.

Small towns need to be told this. More waterslides.

Next up, a big town.

Calgary. Zoo. Tower. No waterslides.

 

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Family First in BC.

Osoyoos Okanagan BC

Family First…

As I write out my notes, The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World’s Baba has just gotten out of the hospital after having major emergency surgery.

At 94, she may be one of the most incredible people I’ve met with her Old World wisdom, quick wit, and constitution of Rasputin.

Osoyoos Okanagan BC
Osoyoos Camping Atop a Mountain

But as we pulled into her parent’s driveway high atop a mountain in Osoyoos, we had no idea how sick she was.

So no matter what adventures we would have, this was a good reminder of what’s important.

Family.

As we ate like kings (endless amounts of scrambled eggs, toast, sausages, bacon, hash browns), we caught up with our relatives. We learned that names have been chosen for a soon-to-arrive baby, though none of them are mine (frankly the world needs more Joes), and listened to everyone’s adventures since we last saw them.

We joked with The-Youngest about catching rattlesnakes by kissing them, which, in hindsight, may have been bad idea –  and if he dies while trying to catch one, that’s on me.

I also may have advised him on such things as how to talk to girls, how to sleep while driving, and how to find gold in abandoned mine shafts. More great examples of epic parenting from me.

The-Oldest held up well during both visits, trying out his new social self. Like me, he’s more comfortable talking to himself than others, but he was on fire with the grandparents, asking engaging questions, making terrible puns, and being able to explain musical theory so it doesn’t sound like new math.

The-Youngest did his best not to fiddle with stuff, like the hot BBQ, the brakes on the RV, the nailgun in the house being built, or the satellite cable dish.

He’s a fiddler, and not the musical kind, oh no, he’d fiddle with the wires of a bomb as you tried to disarm it, and not because he’s cruel, but because his fingers have to find something to do. Stick in something. Twist something. Worm their way into something. Dismantle something. Poke something (mostly his brother).

Give him 20 minutes and I swear he could completely dismantle a tank.

Family first
Vacationing with family in Osoyoos, BC.

The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World was in her element, though.

Unlike me, she’s a people person and her friends or family are the whipped cream on top of her ice-cream life. If she had her way, she would have spent days with her family, sitting under the RV awning, looking out of Osoyoos Lake and talking about life.

But, sadly, The-Oldest’s head would explode without a piano to play, The-Youngest would end up finding a way to pry out every nail in the house under construction and cause it to collapse, and me, I would be run out of super witty things to say and be forced to share.

It would be traumatic.

So we stayed a few hours, had a great time, then drove off. The schedule demanded we be on the road by 12. We had a long drive ahead of us, a drive more eventful than we planned, but I was glad we’d stopped to catch up with family. It was time well spent!

And hey, thanks for reading this!

If you like what you’re reading, please follow on FB, subscribe to my blog, or check out my coming-soon newsletter. Or, heck, just tell your friends.

Alberta Trip – Day 1 in BC

traveling from BC to Alberta

traveling from BC to Alberta

Every penny counts when saving up for a vacation

Our plan began well enough (like most plans). Let’s see how it unfolded once reality got its grubby hands on it.

We were all packed and ready to go by the time The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World came home from work. By the time she had changed into comfy clothes, we had the car packed and sat waiting to go.

I think she was a little stunned she didn’t have to drag one away from the piano, one away from gaming and one away from looking stuff up on his computer. You can guess which is which.

We drove as fast as we could through all kinds of weather. Sun, rain, more rain, great splattering rain and then through fog, and out into the sun, again, which by this time had given up on the day and decided to leave the sky.

how to drive in the rain
Safety tips for driving in the rain

Having a family, now, I’m like a little old lady driving to church with a  basket of eggs balanced on her lap. Not long ago, I was seeing how fast my rental sports car could drive in the desert and there was one time when I decided it was a good idea to double the speed limit on the California highway. But then I was only risking my own life. Now, I have the proper distance between cars, largely obey the speed limit and leave the texting to The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World.

Safety first.

The mood in the car was buoyant, though, and the boys were outstanding in the back seat, neither complaining or fighting or spilling something sticky on the car seats.

So far so good.

Suspiciously good.

We stayed with the Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World’s dad and stepmom. We arrived late but they had stayed up to make sure we were settled in and fed, even though it was way past their bedtime. To be honest, it was past my bedtime, too, but such are the things parents or grandparents do. We ate chips and homemade salsa (which was to die for),  and quesadillas cooked on a super fancy version of the George Forman grill.

Then it was time for bed, and even then, the boys were great. Even quiet.

I began to worry that they’d been replaced by clones, or that The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World has drugged the juice in their sippy cups.

For breakfast, we had homemade jam that was simply outstanding and drank perfectly brewed coffee (the adults, that is, not the kids, no, God, no, on coffee for them until they’re at least 25 or not traveling in a car with us).

But despite the good food and the outstanding behaviour of the boys, the highlight for me had to be hanging in the garage with the-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World’s dad. The garage had the perfect smell. Pipe tobacco. Oil. Gas. And he’d set up a table there, his mint ’67 Dodge Dart behind him, his tools and automotive signs on the wall to one side.

Now, I’m not a car guy. The-Youngest knows how to tell the difference between a ’67 Mustang and a ’68. He could probably tell you how fast it is and what the car sells for, but me, I’m more likely to comment on the pretty colour or cool sound the engine makes. I have no idea if there’s a 250 CID (4.1L) Thriftmaster inline six-cylinder underneath the hood.

Now I can’t say we talked about anything important or waxed philosophical or discovered a cure for stupid, but it was nice to connect with him, just two guys in a garage, one nerdy goober, and one ex-customs agent finding common ground on sacred ground.

It was a nice, quick visit, the type of visit where you think, damn, I wish I had more time to spend there.

the hangover
Not all road trips end well

A perfect start to what I hoped would be the first vacation that actually went according to plan and didn’t end up like some version of The Hangover.

Next up, another visit. The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-world’s mom and stepdad, and her amazing Baba.

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Life is Better With Plans, Right?

My first meme!!!

It’s been a while since I blogged and to my six fans out there, I apologize.

However.

I have a plan.

I’ve spent the last six months working on my novel, Yager’s War, a historical mystery set in 1940s Holland (about a Chicago detective who must find his missing sister before the Germans invade) and that has distracted me somewhat from sitting down and ramble-writing. AKA blogging.

All fair and fine.

But I’m back, baby.

Time to restart blogging, again. But time to kick it up a notch.

So this month, I’m going to look at revamping the website (which means an old dog like me will have to learn some new tricks.)

I’m going to look at changing up the content of the blog.

I’m going to try and make it a billion times better.

And maybe attract one more reader (see, proper goal setting is about making the bar so low that you’ll easily vault over it and not twist a metaphorical ankle.)

So put down that video game, pause season 5 of Homeland on Netflix, put supper back in the oven or move date night to tomorrow.

Cuz I may need your help.

What would you like to see in the blog?

I’m thinking some funny memes. Some advice from people who know what they’re talking about (and not, you know, me). A few guest blogs. Less selfies of me trying to look like Brad Pitt going insane.

Inner Harbour, Victoria, BC.

But first up, our trip to Victoria.

This year, we won’t be able to manage a proper vacation. You know, pack 20 bags, yell at the kids to hurry up, to stay together, to stop picking your nose in public, then spend 2 weeks somewhere that only I want to see (“What’s the deal with this Grand Canyon thing, Joe?” “Hello! It’s grand! And a canyon!”) and engage in Bataan death marches around exotic locals to see things we’ve never seen before (“Wait, Joe, I’ve seen the Eifel Tower on TV, so why do we need to see it in person?”)

Don’t get me wrong, next year, we are totally doing those things, but not this year.

This year, it’s short trips. Hit and run vacations. 2 days here. 2 days there. No planes. No borders. No strip searches (sadly – Apparently, they’re supposed to be done by professionals, not me.)

So this year, we’re going to try to do more things by… ack, I can’t even say it…by… by the seat of our pants.

Without a plan.

Without.

A.

Plan.

Grand Pacific in Victoria, BC.

Well, that’s not entirely true.

We’ve got a bit of a plan.We’ve booked a hotel (the fancy–smancy Grand Pacific) and we have arranged to visit family, but nothing like, 7am, breakfast, 7:35 go to bathroom, 7:50, get into car, 8:30 (have you ever tried to get kids into a car quickly???), head off to see something, 9:00 see something and take lots of pictures of it. 9:10 yell at kids for complaining there’s no wifi. 9:40 head off to see something else that may or may not be cool…. Etc, etc.

Nope. We’re trying to be more flexible (and by ‘we’, I mean, ME.) It’s me growing as a human being while devolving as one at the same time.

Friday night, we’ll take the ferry and sort out what to do when we get there. Saturday, brunch with family, then, THEN, sort out what to do afterward, then the evening, see fireworks, but make no plans where to see them from or what food to eat or ….

Wait, I need a moment.

Ok, hyperventilating over.

Then, Sunday, totally playing it by ear. Maybe see a friend. Maybe look around town. Maybe relax in the pool.

At the very least, it could be interesting.

Likely, I’ll be drinking more than usual.

At least, that’s the plan.

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