Portland to Seattle

We’re retracing our steps now, heading north towards Canada. Portland to Seattle (actually Federal Way, between Tacoma and Seattle) is supposed to be a two-hour cruise.

We decided to pop in to the Mount Saint Helens Visitor Center to kill an hour so that we wouldn’t arrive too early for check-in. That was well worth while, even though we chickened out on doing a hike there because 17°C felt so cold!

Construction on the I-5 added another half hour to our trip, and we were still too early to get into our room, so we went for lunch.

Tonight we’ll return to Los Bigotes de Villa for Mexican food, and tomorrow, we’ll drive to Kelowna to catch Tuesday’s plane to Winnipeg.

Drive: Portland

No need to travel today, so we took a scenic drive and visited a winery we know.

Plan A was to visit Multnomah Falls, but the signs were not auspicious. The digital signs on the interstate, that is. They were advising the overflow parking lot and shuttle at 11:00 this morning. Weekend, hot, holiday.

When we dithered over the time required to shuttle both ways with half-hour waits, a helpful park staffer recommended taking the old Columbia River Highway and visiting some of the other, less popular waterfalls. We did. It was lovely.

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We caught up to bumper to bumper traffic at the Multnomah Falls area. Cars were parked all over the shoulder, and police were towing those that infringed on the white line at the side of the road. There were lots of these, as the shoulders are narrow, rocky and steeply sloped. We ate sandwiches in the traffic jam while we waited for the tow-truck to haul one off.

Then up the Columbia River to to cross the toll-bridge at Hood River, to pay a quick but pleasant visit to the Jacob Williams winery. For a change, we came back towards Portland on the Washington side of the river, and crossed back at Bridge of the Gods. Love the name.

Returned for a second dinner at Bistro 23. We perplexed the staff by eating on the patio despite the heat. At least we didn’t have to worry about the pizza getting cold.

Tomorrow, back to Seattle.

Dinner Debriefing: Pimiento

The Pimiento Bistro & Bar is a simple fifteen minute drive from our hotel in Federal Way and it gets good write-ups on Trip Advisor. Once a month, they do a tapas night with a fixed series of apps and a matched wine flight. Tonight was that night, but we ordered from the menu.

We shared an excellent calamari. Tender, and accompanied by some breaded jalapeno rings. Caroline thought it was one of the best ever, I rate it neck and neck with Broken Plate from Calgary.

I loved my house salad, but Caroline thought her salad with burrata cheese would have the really runny kind, and it was more like a fresh mozzarella.

Both my lamb and Caroline’s duck were tender, but we didn’t think they were exciting. We figure they were cooked medium, and we’d prefer a little less than that. Perhaps the kitchen was unusually busy with the tapas thing.

It was a nice touch that the waiter spoke about each wine he brought as part of the tapas sequence, but we did get tired of hearing the same spiel delivered to three neighboring tables with each course. We stuck with the Sonoma Merlot.

One thing was fun: Blanca Rodriguez, the executive chef, spends time out front with the diners. I liked that, because some chefs never see past the end of their noses. Blanca’s interacting, thinking about your tastes and helping you find the best choice from her menu.

I might go again, but the seating is not in Pimienta’s favour: you must choose between a hard wooden chair or a flat wooden bench.

Kelowna to Seattle

You can get a t-shirt that says you drove the Coquihalla. I have no idea why. Caroline has made me drive over every mountain she can find, and the Coquihalla is a piece of cake.

Lunch in Hope, at 293 Wallace. Fabulous burger, delicious salad. Full marks.

Road coffee from Jungle Juice down the block. New-wavy atmosphere offset by AC/DC on stereo at till. Manager formerly from Winnipeg. French Press dark roast with Almond milk. Best coffee this year. Yes, seriously. Wish I knew what it was, I’d buy every bean.

Border crossing very quick: Pleasure, Portland, one week. No fruit, one bottle of wine. Thank you, you too.

Seattle, at the start of rush hour? That, I want a t-shirt for. Dingbat kept us in the right lane as the I-5 tried to fake him out by designating random lanes as mandatory exits, with emergency vehicles as wild cards to keep you from sitting in the middle.

Kenora to Calgary

Our trip is off to a fairly good start. I’m writing this from our Calgary hotel room, and my brother is safely in Kenora, cat-sitting with all his might.

The flight was uneventful, and the threat of rain in Calgary abated for our arrival. Once again, I did not recognize either pilot. I figure nearly five percent of WestJet pilots are personal friends/former co-workers, but they must all conspire to avoid flying the trips I have tickets on.

Cab-fare from airport to hotel was steep, (>$50) and the cabbie dropped us at the wrong entrance.

We had identified some nice restaurants downtown, but transportation looks to be a challenge.That means we’ll be looking for something within walking distance. Hats off to When Words Collide for providing a map of restaurants and stores close to the Delta South. I plan to post a Dinner Debriefing, but first we have to figure out where we’ll go.

 

Summer Travels 2016

It’s been a while since I wrote about our travels. This summer, we’re taking to the road. Dingbat, our beloved(?) GPS will be joining us for a road trip to Portland, OR. But we’re starting with a flight.

First stop: Calgary, Alberta for When Words Collide. My publishers, Five Rivers, will be launching two books at this convention.

5R Poster 2016

And lookit! Way down at the bottom of the poster, it not only says I’m doing a reading from Avians, it nails down the release date in print.

Immediately before the Five Rivers Salon, I’ll be doing my presentation on Alternative Aviation in SF, and I’ve been stressing a little over how to juggle my notes (one handed on an e-reader?) and the slide show (touch screen tablet?). Good news! Lindsay Kitson, critique partner and fellow pilot, has said not only will she be in attendance, she’s willing to help with setting up and running the projector for me. That’ll be a huge help.

There’s far more to the con than just those two things. There are a slew of panels and presentations I’m eager to attend; my schedule often has two or three highlighted at the same time. I’ll blog those as I go.

After that hectic weekend, we’re hopping over to Kelowna for some family time with the western part of Caroline’s clan.

From there, we’re sticking Dingbat in rental car and heading down into Washington and Oregon. We’d like to see the Museum of Flight in Seattle, then I have novel research to do at Mount Saint Helens, because it is a rare example of a stratovolcano with lava tubes, and you can hike through them. Then Portland, OR for some seafood dinners and as a base of exploration for some local wineries before heading back to Kelowna, Winnipeg and home.

Then just a week or two later, we’ll take an extended September weekend to go to Can*Con in Ottawa. That’s one of my favourite cons, and this’ll be my third visit. It looks as if I might get to moderate a panel there, which will be a great chance to meet authors and readers of SF. More later, as details get firmed up.

It’s going to be a great summer!

Drive: Picton to Ottawa

We could fill several more days in Prince Edward County, but our time is up. There were many more wineries we didn’t get a chance to visit, there were another forty-seven kilometers of the Millennium Trail to hike, there were bicycle rentals, and we never even set foot in a shop, unless you count the grocery store.

The county must be Canada’s headquarters for old barns. You could spend a week just photographing them. Or buying them- there were real estate signs all over the place.

One thing we got right was Brown’s Manor. We had looked at several inns and B&Bs online before we booked, but when we saw the others as we drove around, we never once said, “Oh, we should have stayed there!” Brown’s was splendidly located, very comfortable, and Dianne’s breakfasts were delicious.

There was a wind warning today, and that cemented my desire to avoid the 401. It’s by far the quickest way to Ottawa, but it has a lot of truck traffic, and the idea of sharing the road with all those transports in winds of up to 80km/hour seemed like a recipe for disaster. My first thought was to take the free ferry across the Bay of Quinte and pick up the Loyalist Parkway. It’s only a ten or fifteen minute ferry ride, and it lops off quite a few miles. Ferry service was cancelled today, I think, because of the winds.

We decided to drive the long way, on old highway 2 and 33. When I say we, I mean Caroline and I. Dingbat didn’t like the idea. We had to enter Napanee as a via point and exclude motorways, and then he wanted to zig-zag all over a bunch of county roads to save a few minutes. We didn’t bring a paper map, so we resorted to launching MapQuest on Caroline’s smartphone. Two GPS are not better than one. The two computerized voices argued over which of the routes we didn’t like was the best one. The atmosphere got positively fractious.

We pulled off at a viewpoint place to watch the waves while we calmed them down and got it sorted out.

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In the end, we got our way, but we had to follow highway signs. Who does that?

In Kingston, we decided we should get lunch. The first thing we saw that wasn’t a chain restaurant was The Greek Islands. I’ve never found a Greek Restaurant that did awful Greek food. Awful decor, maybe. When Caroline saw me pull out my phone after we were seated, she asked if I was checking it on Trip Advisor. I laughed out loud at the mental image of us finding awful reviews and making our escape by crashing through the window like action heroes. Seriously, I was just checking my Twitter feed. Dining in the Information Age. The food was fine, although not quite like Dino’s back home. She had chicken souvlaki, I had a beef & lamb gyro.

The drive went better after we humans got something to eat. Our route into downtown Ottawa was pretty simple, and although rush-hour traffic was starting to build, it was in the other direction.

Unloaded Sonnet at the Best Western Victoria Park Suites, then returned her to National at the airport. All the driving we did consumed just fifty liters of gas. I liked the Hyundai Sonata. It was comfortable. I’m tall, and there were oodles of leg and headroom, even with the sunroof. Easy to drive, with many modern touches that we don’t have in our ten-year-old CRV: a backup camera (except Dingbat was suctioned to the screen most of the time). Keyless operation, proximity warnings for lane-changes and reversing. Caroline was not so happy. Her seat lacked the multiple power adjustments, and she found the low seat position made her hips sore.

We were back at the hotel in plenty of time to go for a walk, so now Caroline knows her way to the Sheraton, where Can-Con is. She may meet me for meals to save time.

Our dinner plans for tonight are vague. Pizza somewhere on Elgin Street.