Burning Desire For FIRE

Financially Independent, Retired Early(ish) at 57.

Canada/Alaska Day 4: The long drive day.

Today was a long driving day to get from Kelowna to Banff. It was my turn to sit by the window, so most of the photos you’re going to see of the scenery will have a moody, almost impressionistic feel about them.

Sharon, our tour guide, was telling us about how she survives the cold, particularly in the Canadian winter. “I feel the cold, but I know how to dress,” she said. “I have 4 levels of winter clothing and even when the temperature reaches -40C, I rarely have to wear Level 4.”

She has a Gortex parka which is too warm even in -40C. That must be some parka!

She has 3 levels of boots and she mentioned that even if mothers wrap their kids up with long scarves wrapped around their heads to keep them warm, the kids’ eyelashes will freeze.

She rides horses in the winter (indoors) to keep them exercised, and uses electric socks wired from a battery pack under the knees to keep herself warm.

“I have a friend who is totally wired up from head to toe in the winter,” she said. “I’ve told her not to fall in a puddle or she’ll die!”

I’m going to look at Sharon each morning to determine which coat/jumper/raincoat I should wear that day. I didn’t unpack my raincoat and I needed it in the afternoon. It poured!

As we were driving along, I saw several small signs for a roadside stall, stuck on a fence beside the road.

Apples. 

Toys. 

Fruit. 

Fishing gear.  

Did I say cold beer?

One of the other people on the tour, a retired teacher, said that it takes 40 litres of maple sap to make 1 litre of maple syrup . Wow.

We stopped at a place where the last spike of the overland railway was struck. Here’s a little red caboose for your viewing pleasure.

Sharon was talking for miles about the railways and blah blah blah but I fell asleep. Apparently the railways were important for important reasons that blah blah..

What’s also important is money. I was starting to wonder why I bothered to buy some Canadian and American money, but the gift shop here had no internet, so it was cash only sales.

I bought some Maple Laef coasters (useful souvenir!) and a moose for my Christmas tree. I got my purchases to reach exactly $20, but I forgot that over here, they ass the tax on AFTER the price. How stupid. I had to fish out an extra fiver, but now I have a looney and tooney.

We were driving through the Selkirk mountain range.

Lord Selkirk from Scotland in the mid 1800’s was upset at the displacement of thousands of peasant farmers from the UK, which happened when the landowners discovered that they could make more money from their land by mining coal rather than renting it out to farmers, which they’d done for centuries. He brought a ton of people over to Canada and helped settle them on their own farms. In gratitude, Canada named a mountain range after him.

This blurry photograph was taken just as the bus went into an avalanche tunnel. These are built over the road and protect traffic from any unexpected falls. Sharon said they work well and that deaths have decreased dramatically since these went in.

Good to know, especially when you’re hearing about it from inside a bus driving along that road.

Our first “comfort break” after lunch was in a visitor information centre at the top of Roger’s Pass.

They offered a video about what to do if you come across a bear in the wild. Apparently, the key is to work out if it’s defensive or aggressive. You’d better get it right because the correct way to behave towards the bear is completely opposite for each situation.

Play dead or go bananas.

Sharon was telling a couple of us that there was a couple walking their dog out in the woods near here and they messaged a friend that they were getting concerned about a bear that was following them. A search party was sent out when they didn’t return and sure enough – all three bodies were found the next day.

On the other hand, a woman was being threatened by a bear so she turned the volume up on her phone and played Metallica at it at full volume. The bear fled, the story went viral and the lead singer called her to thank her for the publicity!

Sharon put on a DVD about beavers. I kept falling asleep, but I learned that beavers fell over 400 trees in a single year to build a new dam. I also woke in time to see beaver sex. Despite the romantic music playing over the footage, it looked more like rape to me…

The Rocky Mountains can be seen from space. The whole range is 700 miles long.

I learned this when I woke up for a bit.

I also surfaced to hear about the Kicking Horse river.

It was named during the Palliser expedition, which had a Dr Hector in it. They were out mapping the area and they decided to cross this river Unknown to them, the bottom of the river was deep clay and a packing horse got stuck. Dr Hector went to free it was the horse kicked out and got him square in the chest.

He was knocked out cold for hours. The other men in the expedition thought he was dead and dug him a grave. As they were preparing to throw him in it, he managed to blink a couple of times to let them know that he was still alive. Hence the name – Kicking Horse River. 45 years later, Dr Hector came back with his son Doudlas to show him the place where he almost died.

Doudlas then promptly dropped dead from appendicitis. Dr Hector never returned to the Rickies after that.

We also passed under several animal highways, which were built to allow the wild animals to cross safely from one side of the highway to the other. The sides are built up with trees so the animals can’t even see the road so they have no idea they’re crossing a bridge. They’ve done DNA testing on bears a few years after they’d installed them, and they found that sure enough – bears were looking for love on both sides of the highway, so they’ve been a great success.

Sharon also mentioned the wolves really like the underground wild animal crossings. They hang around at the end, knowing that sooner or later an elk will walk out and BAM!

Dinner.

Just outside of Banff, we got very excited when we saw our first wild animal sighting – a group of elk in the middle of the road.

I hope they all made it off the road ok when they were finished eating.

Later, right in the centre of Banff, we saw a group of elk in the middle of the river, but I couldn’t get a shot in time.

Imagine living with a mountain in your backyard!

I decided to take a close-up of the snow on the top of one of the mountains.

Looks pretty, doesn’t it?

What doesn’t look pretty is this abomination. It’s poutine. A Canadian delicacy, comprising of fries, cheese curds and gravy. I thought I’d do the right thing and give it a go at dinner.

IT WAS AWFUL.

We have a free day in Banff tomorrow. Let’s see what we find!

Dad joke of the day:

Canada/Alaska Day 3: Fortunate Frogdancer strikes again.

Look at this! You know how when you read about neighbourhoods in American lit and they talk about people hanging out on the “stoop”?

I think this is a stoop!

Anyway, on with the day.

Sharon, our tour director, handed out these chocolate lollies of Canadian money. Their $1 coins are called ‘Loonies’ because when the Prime Minister of the day ruled that $1 notes would be replaced by coins, the people thought he was crazy.

When the $2 notes went the same way, “Toonies” just fit.

The toonies have the Queen (now the King) on one side, with a bear on the other. So Canadians have a coin with the Queen with a bear bottom…

We had a long day of driving planned, with a winery visit at the end. I was looking forward to this until Sharon confidentially told us that the organic wines at this winery were shit, but the sparkling wine was good. I began planning how to swap my wine tastings for extra sparkling. Still, a winery visit is always nice.

Our first coffee break was in a town called ‘Hope.’ It’s famous for being where ‘Rambo’ was filmed, as well as being the place where chainsaw-wielding lumberjacks create street art.

While everyone else got off the bus and queued for the loo, or raced to get coffee, I power-walked down the street to see as many wood carvings as I could.

This is one side:

… and here’s the other.

Here’s Harry the Sasquatch.

When we were driving here, Sharon said that she believes in the Sasquatch, because she dated a few of them in her younger years.

When I got back to the bus I told her that I’d found a former boyfriend of hers. She said, “Oh yes. His name is Harry.”

“He said to contact him if things don’t work out with you and your husband. He’s here, living in Hope,” I said.

Well, I wasn’t wrong.

There were all sorts of sculptures dotted around the town. It was fun to walk around and see what can be done with creativity and a chainsaw.

Rambo was filmed here. Sylvester Stallone is very short, so when the call went out for local extras, all of the local lumberjacks showed up. Most of them were big, burly men who towered over Sly.

So then the call went out in Vancouver for small extras.

This is my first sight of a bear-proof rubbish bin. Sturdy, isn’t it? It looks like a WWI tank.

We set off again. Look at this – it’s the last month of Spring and there’s still snow on the mountains.

All was good until suddenly the bus driver pulled over to the side of the road. There was something wrong with the bus. We were out of mobile phone range. Lovely.

After a few minutes, we set off again. Phew!

Ten minutes later, there we were again.

Fortunate Frogdancer strikes again. This time, they could call out and get help. Even though we were in the middle of nowhere, a mechanic and a replacement bus were coming to save us.

In two and a half hours.

So the bus sat by the side of the road, buffeted by every logging truck and heavy vehicle that passed. Another tour bus stopped to offer help, but we’re pretty much a full bus so they couldn’t help us.

The people at the back started complaining about heat and lack of fresh air. Sharon allowed them to get out and sit by the side of the road. Megan went out with them, while I stayed back on the bus and talked about the Royal Family with Pam from Liverpool.

(TLDR: We love the Queen; on the fence about Charles; Harry is lovely but shouldn’t have spilled the family secrets.)

We stopped right by an animal highway. It’s a tunnel under the road, so animals can cross without being skittled.

Finally, the cavalry arrived. We had to move onto the new bus. It was an old model which Mike, the driver, HATED.

“How does the bus feel, Mike?” Sharon asked after a few miles.

“Weird.”

“Maybe that’s because this bus is moving!” she said.

I tell you what – it wasn’t moving very fast. We didn’t get to the winery, though from what Sharon had said, it wasn’t much of a loss. We crawled up the highway beside a river which suddenly became a lake.

It was majestic.

The beaches are very precious to the people of the town of Kelowna. The Canadian Geese come along each year and try and mess up the place. To solve this, they hire people with trained dogs to chase the geese (but not hurt them) so that the geese fly away and leave the place in peace.

Cost? 45K/dog.

Look at our room. Twin queen beds. We both lost our minds when we saw them.

Luxury!

Dad joke for the day:

Canada/Alaska Day 2: The Exciting River trip!

Today was the day we met our tour guide and our group. The plan was to have a whistle-stop tour of Vancouver before we leave the next day.

The first thing of interest that we saw was a very narrow building.

It was built out of spite, when the city decided to widen the road and appropriated most of this guy’s land. The building is 11 feet deep, which you’d think would make it unusable. It’s been occupied ever since.

We drove through Chinatown, mainly filled by older residents who have been there for decades. The younger people want better housing and more affordable rent, so they’re moving outwards.

Gas Town has a dream clock, that Andrew from the comments asked about in my last post. We got to the clock just in time to walk to it and take some photos.

Then this happened:

Megs took this video. Notice the steam coming out from the top!

I turned around and saw this building with a crash-landed UFO on top.

These wild and whacky Canadians!

Gas Town has these fake gaslights, probably put in for the tourists.

Gas Town was established when a guy called Jack sailed in with a boat with a big barrel of whiskey. And he said, “If you help build me a tavern here, you’ll drink free for a day!” 

A day later, the tavern was built. They must have been very thirsty.

The steam clock was built by a man who saw a solution to the problems that steam was causing. The steam was created in great underwater boiler works and it was venting out on the footpath and burning passersby. He designed this clock to put over that vent to protect people. Steam was working the clock but it didn’t do it accurately so it’s now all driven electronically.

Here is the official Olympic Flame, installed when Vancouver hosted the Winter Olympics at some stage. The citizens wanted the flame burning the whole time these next Olympics were going, but the mayor said that he’d only light the flame for an hour IF a Canadian won a gold medal. The flame costs $50K/hour to run.

Fair enough.

I noticed this building as we drove away from the airport to our hotel. It is covered with grass. This turned out to be the Olympic stadium. The grass provides excellent insulation, gives worms for the birds and has 3 different bee colonies on it. This was taken from the Stanley Park part of our tour.

Yes, we were here yesterday.

Speaking of Stanley Park, remember the ‘Girl in a Wetsuit’ sculpture from yesterday? This was supposed to be an identical replica of the little mermaid in Copenhagen Denmark and the ladies of Vancouver said, “You can’t put naked breasts on her in our harbour!!” So she’s now decently clad in a  wetsuit and flippers. When it’s high tide the water comes up to the bottom of her flippers.

After a half hour with the totem poles, which I spent getting to know Mad and Rhona from Phoenix, we set off for Granville Island.

This created a dilemma, because we’ve settled with Blogless Martha that we’ll be spending Sunday on Granville Island with her. So we stuck purely to the produce part, completely ignoring all of the art, jewellery, pottery and everything else interesting parts.

We still had a good time.

The first thing I saw when I entered the produce shed were these enormous, shiny capsicums. I’ve never seen capsicums like them.

Look at these insane cherries!

I’m not a foodie, but even I was mesmerised by these stalls.

They’re almost glowing with pride.

Or chemicals.

I had to take this photo. These could be nowhere else but in Canada.

THESE ARE NOT SCONES!!!!!

omg.

I was standing in the food hall, trying to decide what to get for lunch when I thought I heard, “Frogdancer!”

That can’t be for me, I thought. I don’t know anyone here.

“Frogdancer!”

Megan touched my arm. “I think she wants to save you a seat.”

It was Rhona and Mad.

We had a fun lunch, then we all jumped aboard the bus back to the hotel.

Megan and I wanted to see an exhibition by Emily Carr that Blogless Martha told us about, so we walked off to find the Old Law Courts. When we got there we were a bit cast down to find that the gallery was closed on Tuesdays.

Not to be deterred, Megan asked the receptionist what she would do if she had an afternoon to fill.

“Well, you could take the ferry to North Vancouver, walk around the market and have afternoon tea on the dock. Or you could take the Skyrail to cross the Fraser River. That’s always exciting – to cross the river.”

We looked at the time, realised we could do both, so off we went to the station.

When we emerged at the ferry terminal, look what was parked nearby:

Yep. The PLAGUE SHIP!!

We set out on a sedate trip across the water, then wandered onto the dock.

I don’t know if I’d like to be so rich as to own a yacht like this. Every time you tie up at a dock, you’d have to leave the shop because everyone who walks past peers in.

This reminded me of that bridge in Paris.

We headed towards these yellow umbrellas. I thought it was the market. Megan, however, knew that it was the pun. She wanted a beer.

I was reminded of that time in Beijing when I was with Helen, Rick and Matt and we ordered a cocktail in the middle of the day at a tiny bar.

Why not? I ordered a Shochu Sour. It was bloody beautiful!

I liked this.

We found the market, but most of the stalls were shut. We took the next ferry back to Granville station, then we took the line to cross the exciting river.

It was a subway station. So was the next one. And the next.

The carriage grew crowded. I leaned over to Megan and said, “Wouldn’t it be funny if this line went under this amazing river?”

Megan just looked at me and raised an eyebrow.

Suddenly, after 9 stations where we were crushed against the citizens of Vancouver, the train rose to the surface. We were about to see the river!!!!

Unknown to me, Megan took this video.

Yeah.

She felt the same.

Megan’s the navigator on this holiday. I’m experimenting with only using wifi. She worked out the closest station to our hotel, so we walked to our local supermarket, bought our meals for the night and crashed at the hotel.

But I wanted to leave you with this.

These are ordinary-sized pigeons.

Look at the size of Canadian seagulls!!!! They’re giants!!!

And they have a different cry to ours. Canadian seagulls sound mournful. Seriously, they sound depressed. If we had these guys in Australia, I’d give them all of my fish and chips, just to try and make them happier.

Dad Joke of the Day:

Canada/Alaska Day 1 – Walking around Stanley Park (mostly.)

We’re here!

As you can see, the grey dress is back for another trip. My plan at the moment is to wear it for most days in the first 2 weeks in Canada, then switch to trackies when the cruise moves into colder areas in Alaska. Still, that may change.

This sculpture was the start of our first full day in Vancouver. We arrived just after 1 PM on a sparkling day and went straight to the hotel, then walked around the neighbourhood to see what we could see.

I was interested to see that the Canadians have the same electric bus system I saw in Pyongyang, North Korea. It’s the same system as Melbourne trams, with all the wires up over the streets. The Canadian buses were not nearly as dilapidated as the North Korean ones!

This city looks to be even more sport-mad than Melbourne!

I liked this mural I saw as we were walking around. Martha, whom we’ll all meet a couple of weeks from now, said that downtown Vancouver has a slightly dodgy reputation.

I could see what she meant. It has a very much” back-packers” kind of vibe, with hundreds of eateries, tens of dope shops and vape shops scattered liberally all around. Still, for travellers, our hotel (The Sandman) has everything handy around it.

We had a Cosmos welcome letter given to us at Reception when we arrived. In the middle of lots of handy tips was this sentence:

PLEASE DO NOT WALK DOWN EAST HASTINGS STREET FOR ANY REASON.

I don’t know what’s wrong with this street, but it made me want to go and see.

After we got tired of walking around we went to a gay bar just across the road from our hotel. I was looking at their menu and there were two items we had no idea about. I called a waiter over.

“What are Yorkies?” I asked.

“They’re little Yorkshire puddings stuffed with…”

“Oh thank god!” I interrupted him. “I couldn’t think what they’d be, and I had visions of you getting little Yorkshire Terriers and force-feeding them stuff, then cooking them.”

He laughed his head off. “No, no, we’re a cruelty-free establishment here!”

“Also, what are Hoagies”? (Megan had guessed that they were some sort of sausage.)

“Oh, hoagies are a long bun that you put the sausage into, then load it up with all the extras.” So Megs was on the right track with that guess… sort of.

After our refreshing bevvies, we went to a Vietnamese place for dinner, then back home where we slept for 12 hours.

It wasn’t an uninterrupted sleep, however, at least for me. Megan snores, but luckily it appears to be at the same volume as Jeffrey, so I was pleasantly surprised and went off to sleep. However, she also sleepwalks.

I woke to a slight scratching sound coming from what I thought was either inside or at the back of the bedside table. I’m sure you remember all the trouble we had a few months ago with rats? Well, that was my first thought.

I opened my eyes in the darkened room, just in time to see my water bottle lurching as something was pushing from underneath it. For a hot half-second I was terrified. A rat was emerging and it was a big one!

Then I realised it was Megan. She mumbled, “Ooogledy- boogeldy clock,” and was grabbing the clock radio on the table. She then got up, started to go into the wardrobe and then disappeared into the bathroom.

OK then. I rolled over and went back to sleep.

That lasted until exactly midnight. I don’t know what she pressed on the top of that clock radio, but the alarm went off. Megan didn’t stir. I unplugged the clock, opened the curtains to see if there was any Northern Lights action after the solar storm we’d been having – no – and then went back to sleep.

Megs went out to breakfast this morning while I ate the vegemite and Vita-Wheat crackers that I’d brought from home. After a little chat with Martha via Twitter about what we’ll do with her on our day together, we headed off to walk around a big 100-acre park called Stanley Park.

It was down a long hill from the hotel.

“I’m not looking forward to the climb back up this later,” Megs said.

We got to the harbour. The smell of the sea was wonderful. There were a fair few people around, all seeming to be young mothers with prams, retired folk and tourists from Germany. You can see from the photo that there were lots of ships lined up.

We walked along the seawall to get to the park. There were lots of birds enjoying the mild weather and their cries sounded beautiful.

Along the seawall walk, there were many benches for people to sit and take in the views. Most of them had dull, generic labels. You know, like “Joe Lunchbucket 1943 – 2023. He was a good bloke.”

I decided that my label would be something like, “Sit down and enjoy the view with me. My ashes are scattered underneath this bench!”

After consulting a map at the edge of the park, we boldly pressed on to see Beaver Lake. As you can see to the right of the photo, the city is letting the natural foliage just do what it will – as long as it doesn’t impede the paths, of course!- and the animals and birds are returning to the park.

Megs said that she saw a sign saying that a coyote den was nearby, so people should keep their dogs on leads. All the dogs we saw in the park were kept tightly leashed.

A little way down the track we saw this. “OO! A bridge!” said Megan. “I’ll have to go across that!”

Turned out that no, she didn’t.

Lost Lagoon is a place where beavers are living. There were a few clumps of trees, branches and other things that they’d put together. The reflection in the lake was amazing.

Bird song filled the air and it was very tranquil.

We swung around to a touristy hub, then started walking towards where we’d see totem poles and a sculpture.

I stopped for a pit stop. This is deeply disturbing to the eyes of an Australian. There’s SO MUCH WATER in the toilets!!!! What a waste!

As we wandered along, this group of buildings caught my eye. Pyongyang colours!

See?

Along the path, we kept seeing broken mussel shells. Here’s what was happening.

I watched this crow throw the shellfish on the path until the body fell out. Then the bird devoured its meal.

Very clever.

The totem poles appeared around the next bend of the path.

They’re quite large.

There was a lot to choose from, with plaques in front of each one explaining what they were portraying

At the bottom, this one has a man being held by a bear.

However, this one was my pick. I didn’t really like all the gaudy paint on the others.

After a trip to the gift shop, where I bought a Canada fridge magnet and a Christmas decoration for my eclectic tree, we headed off in search of this:

‘Girl in a Wetsuit.’ She’s just off the seawall path.

She symbolises the intense relations between Vancouver and the sea trade.

I loved the simplicity.

We came across a sundial. Megan tried to operate it on a cloudy day…

We saw this lovely bridge.

It looked very ferny and pretty as I peered under it. Maybe we could have a look on the way back? It wasn’t as if we were going to circumnavigate around the whole 1000 acres of this park!

Canada geese! They let us get so close to us. They also had bikes racing past them, but they didn’t turn a feather.

I had to giggle when I saw this lighthouse.

I mean… really? Call that a lighthouse???

We were getting tired, so we turned around and dived under that bridge. It was very pretty, with lots of happy ferns, water and birds.

It was almost like walking through the Dandenongs.

But a few minutes later, we saw something that would never be in the Dandenongs:

“Look!” said Megan. “On the bridge!”

It was a red squirrel. A RED ONE!

It jumped off the bridge and ran towards us. I was waiting for it to see us and dive into the bracken, but it came bounding over to where I was standing, stopping when it was only a few inches away from my feet.

It froze. I took 4 photos of this squirrel and they were all the same.

It then got itself together and dived across the road. A few seconds later, it emerged and came even closer to Megan.

I was rapt to see a red squirrel. I wasn’t expecting to see one. I know they’re in North America but in my head, they’re from England.

Many paths wind their way through the park. We’d see bike riders and joggers, but a lot of the time we were on our own. This was a Monday, so I wondered what it would be like on a weekend.

Megs looked up the population of Vancouver. I was surprised to hear that it’s smaller than Melbourne! They have around 2.5 million. We’re sitting on 5.3 million. Almost double the size.

I was pleased to see that the park rangers are prepared for fires!

We started to see them all over the place.

It was getting past lunch time. I wanted to get some food in mah belly, to nudge my body along to adjust to a totally opposite time-zone. We were looking for a way back to the café.

It took a lot of map-reading from Megan, who has internet on her phone, to get us back to where we started. (I’m trying the experiment of relying on wifi.)

Remember the ships at the start of the day? By the afternoon they were all lined up. As the clouds began to melt away, Canadians started to emerge from their houses, blinking in the sunlight.

The beach started to fill up with sunbathers, while a couple of intrepid souls were swimming.

One strange thing I noticed was that a lot of older people here use two hiking sticks to get around. You never see this in Australia.

And to finish the photos – I liked this tree growing on the roof of this building.

We walked up the hill (slowly) back to our hotel, where Sharon, our Canada tour group leader, was waiting to meet everyone. It’s a big tour group of 42, of which 36 are Aussies.

I’m not sure how I feel about that.

Dad joke of the day:

Our adventures have started and we haven’t even left home yet!

We leave on Sunday for our land tour of Canada and our expedition cruise to Alaska.

Friday night at 10 I listened to my voicemails and there was a message from Megs, my travel partner: “Look at your emails.”

Our Alaskan cruise has been cancelled. The ship had a problem that was discovered during a scheduled maintenance stop and the company was pulling the whole cruise.

Bloody hell. We booked the trip through Flight Centre and they don’t open on weekends. We had just one day to get this sorted.

OMG it was a THING!

I left an email for Montana, our travel agent, saying I’d be there at 9 AM. Then I spent the rest of the evening until 1 AM messaging with Scott and my Antarctica friends about possible workarounds.

At 8, I received a call from Montana asking us to come in at 12, to give her time to work through some options.

Well, we got to the travel agents at 12 and we left at 4:45.

It was a huge drama, much more than I thought it would be. We tried about 20 different alternatives, with the travel agent calling different companies to find out whether different tours and holidays would work with our dates. She started with 3 possible cruises. One was hellishly expensive and the others were only 7 days. (Our original cruise was 14 days.) One had children on board – yucky.

We started looking through brochures and exploring other options. Land tours? A combo of a short cruise and land tour? Going into the US instead?

Nothing would work. It was a nightmare.

Finally, after 2 hours, I looked at Megan and said, “I think we have to go with the expensive cruise. It’s the only thing that fits.”

She was reluctant, as she’s putting a new kitchen in as soon as we get back, but it was the only way.

It’s a 10 night cruise to Alaska. We’ve been upgraded to a balcony room WITH OUR OWN BUTLER!!!!!!

Haha! Not very frugal at all.

My Antarctica friends are now coming up with crazy requests for the butler. This could be fun…

The annoying thing is now that we’re not on an expedition ship anymore, we’ll have to dress for dinner. Apparently, “elegant casual” is the way to go. I’m going to have to bring my linen clothes – at least I’ll have a butler to iron them for me!!

A know-it-all woman I used to work with had this suggestion on FB:

“Little black dress, 3 bright scarves, 1 Isadora scarf, sparkly jewellery, a headband and a feather.”

Sure, like I have those things in my wardrobe… She said they might have ‘theme’ nights but we’ll be in the air when the company emails their ship information to us, so we’ll be missing that info. Never mind… maybe we could get the butler to help us?

“James! Find me a costume for the Bordello in Mexico night!!”

All up, after we get a full refund from the cancelled cruise, we’ll be $2,200 or so out of pocket. Our travel agent will see if our travel insurance will come to the party on any of this. Our holiday will be a few days’ shorter than originally intended, but hey – it’s better than being two WEEKS shorter, which was what it was starting to look like!

I got home utterly exhausted and was in bed at 8:20 PM.

So we leave on Sunday at 11AM, with a full itinerary, thank goodness. If anyone in Melbourne is looking for a good travel agent, Montana Edwards at Flight Centre Mordialloc is like a dog with a bone. She wasn’t stopping until our trip was sorted.

I guess I should start to pack now, hey?

Proper travel blogging will commence shortly. 🙂

Dad joke of the day:

Wednesday W’s #103

What’s top of my mind: My 7th continent!

Yes, in a few more days I’ll get the set! Megs and I leave on Sunday.

I can’t tell you how incredibly lucky I feel to be one of the few people in human history who will be able to say that I’ve set foot on all 7 continents. We live in an amazing time, that’s for sure.

Where I’m going: Canada and Alaska.

I’ve yet to meet someone who hasn’t enjoyed this trip. Everyone raves about it, so even though I’m pretty much going inblind, I’m pretty sure I’ll have a good time.

We’re meeting Martha (a blog reader) on our free day in Vancouver. I’m looking forward to this. 🙂

Where I’ve been: in denial.

I’ve done no research, no packing, no real garden prep for winter… Honestly, I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I have 3 days to get my shit together.

What I’m reading: SO MANY BOOKS.

But I don’t have the time to back-track through Goodreads for you.

Sorry.

What I’m watching: ‘The Gentlemen’ on Netflix.

I finished this last night and I loved it. As soon as my sister told me it was a Guy Ritchie series, I was in.

What I’m listening to: Jeffrey snoring.

Apparently, I’ll be swapping this for Megs snoring…

I’ve already bought some earplugs, but to be honest I’m not fond of the idea of earplugs. It’s a safety thing. Still, I’m going to give them a red hot go.

What I’m eating: Food.

Nothing of note.

What I’m planning: Liga’s road trip in Australia.

Remember my Antarctica trip and how we ended up being a tight friendship group? I stayed with Corinna last year in London and now Liga from Latvia is coming to Australia in November! I’m so excited.

She said that she wants to see 4 things while she’s here: 1. Me. 2. The Opera House. 3. Uluru. 4. The Great Barrier Reef.

Fortunately, she has around 3 weeks up her sleeve, so her wishes are do-able. It’s going to be tight, though. Latvia is a country the size of Tasmania, so I’m not sure Liga’s got her head around precisely how big Australia is.

I’ve spent far more time working on this trip than I have on Canada/Alaska. This will be Liga’s 7th continent so I want to make sure that she sees as much as possible.

She and her friend (also called Liga) will land in Sydney and spend 3 or 4 days there. They’ll then fly down to me. On the first day, I’ll take them to Healesville Sanctuary to see all the Aussie animals. Then – the road trip starts.

Melbourne – Halls Gap – The Great Ocean Road to Warrnambool – Adelaide – Port Augusta – Coober Pedy – Uluru.

I leave them there, and after a couple of days, they fly out to Cairns to the rainforests and the Reef. Then home.

They’ll see the bush, the desert and the rainforests. Cities and the Outback.

I was going to drop them off at Adelaide, but Liga said that she wanted to drive in the desert with the red sands stretching away on either side. I thought that sounded cool, so once I found out that the Ligas were going to be charged $ 900 USD extra for hiring a car in Adelaide and leaving it at Uluru, I decided to just drive up there with them.

The drive to Uluru and back isn’t for the faint-hearted.

Who deserves a thumbs-up: The travel money people.

As I was typing, I got a text to say that my CAD and USD money is now available. Off I got to Mornington to pick it up!

What has made me smile: our early Mother’s Day.

Megs and I are flying out early in Mothers Day, so the kids gathered here on Sunday for an early MD. Jenna couldn’t make it as she wasn’t feeling well, but everyone else was here. It was lovely to see the two quiet girls, Izzy and Sophie, get to know each other better.

Tom32 took me out to dinner a few days before, so we had a lovely evening just chilling. He lives in Frankston and the council there has invested heavily in street art, so he took me on a little walking tour before we grabbed dinner. Just up my alley! (No pun intended.)

Evan27 gave me some flowers with a card that read:

“Hey Mum, Happy Mothers Day.

I adore you and have such a privileged life with you as my mother. Even if it was a lot of smoke and mirrors in the early years and times were tougher than I realised. It was a delight.

Now, even if we don’t see or even talk to each other every day, it’s nice knowing you’re always there when I need you.

It’s been great becoming friends as adults on top of mother and son. I’m thrilled for you, with all these travels and can’t wait to read all about it.”

Do you know what this means?????

I finished reading it, turned to him and said, “Does this mean you’re going to READ MY BLOG???”

He laughed and said, “Well, I’m going to try!”

Dreams do come true!

So yes. Starting from now – the travel posts will be back on both blogs.

Dad joke of the day:

Achievements Chart.

So far, I’ve had a very unstructured retirement and I love it. Every day, I get up and ask myself what I feel like doing that day. Then I do it.

Who wouldn’t be happy with that?

A few weeks ago, I signed up for a walking group on Thursdays, but I’ve only been to two walks so far. Aside from this “commitment”, my days are free and clear and I love the freedom in that.

I also like the feeling I get when I have a productive day. You know, when I Get Things Done. Given this, I began to think that it might be time to gently introduce a limited form of structure into my week. I want to Get Things Done, but without a rigid timetable or expected timeframe for each one.

So the Achievements Chart was born.

I chose 9 tasks that I want to move forward with each week.

I have a line in the chart for each day of the week. Every time I do one of these things, I colour the box in red for that task for that day of the week. With me so far?

The absolute beauty of this chart is its flexibility. I don’t want to give myself a job – I just escaped that!

For example: ‘Gardening’ is one of the tasks. Sometimes I might be out in the veggie garden for hours. Other days, I might be busy doing other things, so I simply race outside and pull a weed or two. Both count as a box-colourer.

I don’t need to do each category every day. I have a number beside each one that is the minimum required to get a success for the week. So I may have a day where I only get to do one or two tasks, but other days when I knock many categories over. It doesn’t matter, as long as I get to fulfil the number by the end of the week.

Then each task gets a green box coloured in, as a summary of the week.

My friend Scott won’t be pleased to see that I haven’t touched the quilt I’ve been making for him for 11 weeks. Oh well, what can I say? I haven’t been in the zone.

The beauty of this chart is that it’s very motivating. If there’s a spare 10 minutes at the end of the day, I can think, “I haven’t harvested anything today” and I’ll go out and pick some beans, just so I can get that box coloured! Or I’ll grab the dogs’ leads and take them for a gallop around the block.

Now that I’ve been doing it for a while, it’s interesting to see where my weaknesses are. I’ve already mentioned the quilting, but exercise is NOT a great love of mine. I could see that I was starting to drift into avoiding it again, so I made an effort to fulfil the requirement this week.

Blogging has fallen by the wayside a bit. I have 8 trips coming up in the next 15 months, so I’ve been a bit preoccupied with organising all of that. However, this will change in a week – Canada and Alaska are coming! Prepare for the travel posts!

My friend Blogless Sandy has been trialling this chart too and she’s loving it. The key to it is the flexibility and the personal goals that each person has for themselves. I’ve been doing it for 11 weeks now, and I plan to keep it going whenever I’m not travelling.

It gently keeps me on track, and I like that.

Dad joke of the day:

Wednesday W’s #102.

What’s top of my mind: My Aged Care.

It’s come to that time when my parents need me to fill out the reams of paperwork to get them onto the My Aged Care system. Up until now, they’ve been using their local council for services.

Tomorrow I’m going over there again to spend another day photocopying statements, chasing up forms and generally wanting to be anywhere else but there.

It’d be nice if beaurocracies made their paperwork more streamlined. Just saying.

Where I’m going: To see Evan27 and Jenna’s shows!

Yes, the kids are back at the Comedy Festival again.

Evan27 is performing HERE.

Jenna is performing HERE.

Tom31’s girlfriend thought it’d be nice to get the whole family together to see the shows, so there’ll be a family excursion on Saturday.

Where I’ve been: to see ‘Wicked.’

My sister-in-law has never been to the Theatre, which was shocking to me. I had to fix this sad state of affairs, so I chose a big, rousing musical to pop her theatre cherry. Turns out that she’s a massive ‘Wizard of Oz’ fan, so I accidentally chose the best possible show for her!

She loved it.

Job done. 🙂

What I’m reading: ‘The Best Way to Bury Your Husband, by Alexia Casale

I picked this one up from the library yesterday.

What I’m watching: The White Lotus 2.

I finished this last night and I absolutely loved it. I watched season 1 a while ago and then got sidetracked, but I was back on board for the last few nights.

It’s on Binge, for those who are in Australia.

What I’m listening to: Jeffrey snoring.

It’s the soundtrack of my life when I’m home.

What I’m eating: Green beans from the garden.

In a last desperate sput by Mother Nature, the beans are making a last-ditch effort to produce food before I pull them all up.

I have 4 weeks before I go to Canada and Alaska. Let’s see who gives up first.

What I’m planning: a trip to Kenya, Tanzania and ZANZIBAR.

Doesn’t the last country on that list make your toenails tickle with anticipation of the exotic unknown? I always knew that I wanted to go on a safari in Africa again – 5 days back in 2014 wasn’t long enough – but Zanzibar?!?

Yep. They had me at Zanzibar…

April next year in case anyone is keeping track. It seems that 2025 is going to be the year when I’m away more often than I’m home!

Who deserves a thumbs-up: All those who said that retirement is terrific.

They weren’t steering me wrong.

What has made me smile: Georgia 29 got her license!

Better late than never!

Dad joke of the day:

Little Adventures #21: March 2024 – THE SKYDIVE.

It’s not often that I get excited when I hit a goal. Usually, I’m already focusing on the next one. Stupid, I know. But this one was a little different. It was a long time coming.

I first heard about skydiving when I was a kid. Instantly, I knew that one day, I’d do it. Heights don’t particularly bother me, and I’ve always had a bit of a thirst for the unknown. Jumping out of a plane was a big tick off my list of Things To Do.

Then, of course, life happened. I had to put my individual goals to the side to focus on bringing up my children and giving them the best start in life I could. Being a single parent to 4 kids is a busy life.

(To be fair, I sneaked in a little bit of travel, with the whole family going to Bali and Thailand, and David15 and I having a quickk junket to Singapore the first Christmas he didn’t stay with the kids’ father. I sent the music kids to the US when they were in secondary school, as well as the trips the school made to The Red Centre and Tassie. I wanted the travel bug to get them.)

Now – it’s finally MY TIME.

I achieved Financial Independence three years ago and retired. I have no ties other than the dogs, as my kids are all independent. I’m so lucky that Georgia29 still lives at home and is likely to stay here for the next 3 years while she finishes her course.

I have 3 years to travel. Georgia29 looks after the dogs and the garden when I’m gone, which saves me thousands of dollars. I’m free to explore.

But not every goal is travel, unless you count jumping from a plane and plummeting to Earth as travel. I asked the kids to club together for my birthday and get me something I really want. Something that wouldn’t clutter up the place and just be forgotten.

I wanted to skydive for my 60th.

Here I am with all the gear on. We’d just finished watching a safety video and I had to race to take my rings off and put them in the locker with my bag. These rings are precious to me… I bought the emerald in Phuket and the sapphires were a 21st present from my parents. Imagine if they whipped off and fell away during the dive? I’d be crying, “Nooooooo!”

People were asking if I was nervous. I can honestly say that there wasn’t an ounce of nervousness in me. I was calm. I was going to do this and I knew I’d enjoy it. I wasn’t excited or jumping around. I was still and certain. I didn’t start to get a bubble of excitement in my stomach until we were driving into the airport.

We drove from Elwood to Moorabbin airport. I’ve driven past here probably thousands of times and never been inside before. We all got into an impossibly small plane and the instructors strapped themselves to us. There were 7 of us doing the jump.

Then up we flew. Up, up, past the clouds and over the top. We were high. Melbourne and the bay were stretched out below us. Then, the instructor closest to the door swung it open, nodded to his passenger and then they almost rolled out the door.

The other couples closest to the door shuffled along and Out! Out! Out!

It was so quick. They definitely don’t give people time to chicken out.

The plane swung around to regain its position. Then it was our turn. I smiled and shuffled toward the open door. I grabbed hold of the loops in front of the harness, as we were told to do.

Then we were out.

And flying.

I couldn’t keep the goofy grin from my face while we were freefalling.

We had around a minute of freefall.

That minute lasted a long time. It was beautiful up there.

The was a peace and serenity that I can’t describe. The wind was whipping past us, but along with the sound of the wind was a high note, just at the edge of my hearing.

The city and the bay were below and there we were, arms outstretched and flying so free. It was only a minute but I feel that it changed something inside me. There’s a pocket of peace and happiness in me that wasn’t there before.

Then there was a tap on my shoulder to tell me to grasp the loops at the front again. Then with a whoosh, we went upwards as the parachute was opened.

The instructor operated the parachute so we whirled and swooped, allowing us to see everything as we slowly descended.

Down there, my friend Alice from work was in her backyard filming one of us coming down. Of course, we’re convinced it was me that she caught!

I was so happy up there. It’s the best feeling.

Then, sadly, we were heading into land on Elwood foreshore. Look at my expression. I wanted it to last for longer, even though it lasted far longer than I expected.

I’ll carry this experience in a small part of me forever.

Look at me with my feet held firmly out. We’re told to land on our bum, and not to lower our ankles or they could be broken. I’m going to Canada and Alaska in 6 weeks. No way I was going to risk ruining that trip!

Deana from England gave me some pink socks and I told her they’d be jumping out of a plane today. Here they are, gracefully making their way back to earth.

The landing.

Hair bedraggled from the wind but so happy – there I was. I’m not sure I have a Bucket List, but if I do, this was one important item ticked off.

If I hadn’t achieved Financial Independence, I would’ve been in a classroom, looking out of the window when the kids were working and dreaming of where else I could be. Most days of my retirement are mundane and contented, just ambling along doing the day-to-day tasks that I need or want to get done. Just days of simple little things.

And then there are days like this.

Dad joke of the day:

Wednesday W’s #101

What’s top of my mind: Jeffrey.

It can’t be comfortable being balanced along the back of the couch as he is, but Jeff’s never happy unless he can see me. I’m perched up at the kitchen bench on a stool, typing away, so there’s no way he can velcro himself to my side, which is his preferred position.

But up on the couch, he can gaze at me until he drifts off to sleep. He’s snoring now.

I absolutely love going travelling, but I also love it when I’m home. These three little woofs are everything.

We don’t deserve dogs.

Where I’m going: Mum and Dad’s place.

It’s Dad’s 86th birthday on Sunday, so my sister Kate, her husband and I are going over there for lunch. We’ll go to a nearby park and have a little barbeque.

Where I’ve been: Skydiving!

This is a Little Adventure that I’ll never forget. A post about this will be coming soon.

What I’m reading: ‘Wifedom’ by Anna Funder

I borrowed this from the library a while ago, along with about 7 other books. Then I went to Kangaroo Island, so I was out and about instead of reading. ‘Wifedom’ had to go back to the library, unread, so I placed another HOLD on it as soon as I got home. It took 2 months to swing back to me.

It’s time to tackle this novel. It’s about George Orwell’s first wife. I read about their relationship in another book I read about the Orwells – The Last Man in Europe – and she sounded fascinating.

What I’m watching: The White Lotus season 2.

Now that Australian Survivor has finished, my evenings are now free to explore other seasons of shows I love. I finished all ‘The Walking Dead’ spinoffs, so now it’s time for more elevated viewing.

I’m only a couple of eps in, but I’m enjoying it. It’s on Binge, by the way.

What I’m listening to: a mix of windchimes and snoring.

There’s a very light breeze today, so every now and then I’ll hear a sound from my lovely Kangaroo Island windchimes. Jeffrey is loudly enjoying a nap on the couch, as you know.

What I’m eating: nothing exciting.

However, when I’m able to include ingredients from my garden, I get such a kick out of it.

The photo is for veggies for a bolognese. Our garlic, chilli, celery, zucchini and spinach were in it. Nice!

What I’m planning: nothing in particular.

After the huge flurry of booking 5 trips away, I’ve decided that I should stop booking things for a while and just start to enjoy the anticipation.

Then yesterday I remembered that I’d forgotten to book my flights for The Ghan trip I’m doing in September for my birthday. Oops! Imagine the panic if I hadn’t remembered? I’d be hitch-hiking my way from Melbourne to Adelaide and Darwin to Melbourne. No one who has seen ‘Wolf Creek’ wants to be on their own out in the middle of nowhere…

Funnily enough, I’ve never booked flights myself before. So yesterday afternoon, after I came back from taking Mum to the pool and then having lunch, I bravely clicked onto Webjet. I saw which flights were available, then went onto the actual airlines’ websites to book the flights.

I have to be honest and say that it was a bit of a thrill to click “Darwin.” It sounds incredible that in a few months I’ll be casually wheeling my carry-on through the airport up there. So exotic…

Who deserves a ‘Thumbs-up’: Blogless Sandy.

She’s the one who told me how to book the flights. There would’ve been a lot more googling if she hadn’t told me what to do.

What has made me smile: Easter Monday.

I’m having most of the kids here for lunch and to watch the video of me skydiving. Tom31 and Sophie are in the country seeing her family for Easter, so they’ll not be here, but everyone else is coming.

The plan is to fire up the pizza oven and Georgia29 will make pizzas for everyone. Too easy!

I love having my family all around. They’re such nice people.

Dad joke of the day:

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