Fishing with the Clampitts – Canadian Edition

Children of avid fishermen- and women- are all aware of the big fish and where to hook them. All the liars in my family have stories, very rarely backed up with photographic documentation, of swordfish caught in Mexico or Tarpon pulled in only to be snatched in half by an opportunistic hammerhead shark that was longer than the boat. I have a hypothesis which states that fish size has a direct correlation to the amount of beer left in the cooler when the boat docks. I get increasingly skeptical the more time I waste casting in to a seething pool of disinterested tarpon or riding up and down the coast at infinitum, 4 swordfish lines in the water, only to return with a nasty case of seasickness from inhaling diesel fumes for 8 hours.

But the lure of Canada (Yes I said it) and her trophy trout, caught only by bear and a few lucky anglers able to helicopter in to an unspoiled picturesque mountain location, had me hooked on trying. Spouse, however, did not take the bait and instead suggested we fish alongside the road while driving through Western Canada. Which to me sounded a lot like a canoe trip- it sounds fun until you`re in the water paddling to nowhere- which always takes 6 hours longer than planned.

Some of the Clampitts are more successful than others in landing the big ones.

Grace mahimahiAnd some have branched out with skills so superior that they can catch other species on a fishing trip

IMG_0542So even though we were  going to be the family you see fishing off the side of the bridge when driving by, I thought it was worth a try.

We didn`t spend much time- none in fact- planning where to fish, hiring a guide, or consulting helpful books. Our preferred method for wrestling in the big ones was to eye the rivers, lakes, and mud puddles along the way and decide if nestled in the rocks was the big one.  Eyeing might insinuate we spent a substantial amount of time evaluating a location, but it really just involved  pulling over, turning on the hazards, baiting the hook and seeing what happened.

We found out why landing the big ones only comes with a helicopter ride. There are two rules for fishing in national parks in Canada which ensures the fish survive and the fishermen never return. The first is worms can`t be used as bait. Fishing without a worm? That`s like drinking a beer without the accompanying cigarette. And second, the hooks can`t be barbed. The hooked fish just shakes it`s head and swims off. Where`s the fun in that?

We were going to have to get crafty to land the 10 pounders.

A little known fishing secret- follow the railroad tracks. Apparently fish migrate alongside them.

IMG_7067After a few climbs pulling ourselves up by weeds I was not as enthusiastic.

IMG_7068Ah but then, Ouisar-san landed the big one.

IMG_7011That`s what I`m talkin` bout.

 

 

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So- Where Were We When I Last Told Riveting Stories of Canada?

I know many of you have been wondering whatever happened on our driving tour of Western Canada two years ago. My last post involving our year stint as Canadians involved  complaining about the cold and singing hallelujah to the Canada Goose Company. Which is about where I`m picking up- only two years and two moves later. But I`m sure you get as sick as I do of everyone whining about the cold and how unexpected snow is during the winter so I`ll skip the rest of winter and pick up where I last left off- our Canada Tour- from two summers ago. After a couple of years, it may be complete fiction with some pictures to inspire my story telling.

Our two-week car trip went something like this:

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Some of you may be asking, “What do you do in a car for 19 plus hours with two teenagers that doesn`t involve taking drugs?” For starters, drag the trip out for two weeks so the hours spent in the car with a student driver are limited otherwise the bills for Pepto Bismol and Tums make the cost of the trip prohibitive.

Next you follow National Geographic`s recommendations religiously, eliminate all the boring stuff they use as filler and substitute a substantial amount of the hiking for fishing. Let`s face it, sitting by a picturesque lake with a beer is much less taxing than a climb requiring special shoes and heart defibrillator. This constitutes a Clampitt dream vacation. No duct tape required but helpful if one needs to attach the fishing rods to the top of the car because the bags of food required to keep Offspring #1 fed take up all the room in the back.

We launched in Vancouver with a quick peek at the art scene. Apparently there isn`t a lively debate on what constitutes art in Vancouver. It’s surprising there weren’t several starry-eyed tourists and pot smokers excitedly debating the use of color in this collage, but somewhere in city hall there is debate on when the construction contracts will be renewed.

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Said City Commissioner to the Mayor, “I`ve got a great idea for getting rid of all the demolition material we can`t dump…”

Is this all we did in Vancouver? I think it is. We drank some coffee. OH- I wrote another post about Vancouver- I totally forgot. It`s here. We talked about visiting the University of British Columbia, which Spouse and I were all over given it costs about $10 to go to college in Canada. (Montreal students protested this astronomical tuition a few years ago but were unsuccessful in getting tuition lowered to $5 per year) Offspring #1 was convinced we had ruined his chances of getting in to college with our maniacal moving so we skipped it.

We did stop for a visit with my Aunt, cousin and her husband. It`s hard to believe that I have blood connections to this talented branch of the family. (Have I ever mentioned my Dad is Canadian? Perhaps not) Auntie Numbers was the original Bachelorette. I got to visit the stylish 30 something vixen when I turned 13 without my annoyingly adorable younger sisters present to divert any attention directed towards me. I left wanting to live the life of the free unencumbered 70`s single lady- taking cabs to dinner and living in a posh 2 bedroom overlooking Vancouver.

My poor cousin, an expert in childhood development and education, only hears from me when I need advice on something the Offspring need to do but won`t. She talks to me anyway God Bless her sweet heart.

So Vancouver is great with  lots of scenic stuff, expensive real estate and movie sets. But let`s talk about the real tourist attraction in the Great White North- fishing.

Yea Baby. Next time.

 

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Dear Spouse, I`d like an RV for my Birthday

During the six days of driving it took Offspring #2 and me to cross this great country, I came to the conclusion that an RV would have preferable to the Toyota we had to push half the way to California. In fact, there are several reasons that I NEED an RV- and I think you`ll want one too once you get to the end of this post.

So, the question is, why would I want an RV in the first place?

Interactions with People I Don`t Know is Close to 0

I`m an introvert which means I prefer to keep conversations with people I do and don`t know as short as possible or, in an ideal world,  avoid them all together. In general, people like me much better the shorter the interaction. So, when I can avoid conversations with a smile and a wave, I am much more popular. Win-Win. Driving an RV would allow me to minimize all those conversations forced when staying in a hotel.  The higher end the hotel, the more employees will follow you around trying to engage in conversation.

There are always at least four people one has to interact with prior to reaching the safety of the hotel room. The more stars attached to  hotel, the more people and the more interested they are to have a long conversation. And now that Trip Adviser is ruling the travel roost, everyone wants travelers to have a positive, high touch experience. One bellman told me in lieu of a tip, he`d prefer an enthusiastic endorsement on Trip Adviser.

“Done, now every time you talk to me my glowing endorsement will dim proportionally”

Although I`d like to just silently toss the keys to a valet (If there is one, if there isn`t even better) it embarrasses my family. It doesn`t matter if there are 15 , 500 pound trunks loaded in to the car, I`ll lug them up myself to avoid talking to the bellman. In fact, I`m a better tipper if allowed to drag up my own bags. When the bellman`s in charge, it takes an extra 15 minutes to get your stuff because they are busy talking to all the other guests, who like to chat, on the way up- or worse- letting all those people ahead on the elevator thus slowing down the process further. Then there`s the front desk clerk interested in where you`re from. I learned a long time ago to hide my accent in order to avoid discussing how we hid from tornadoes in the trailer park. Room service?  I usually just have them leave it in the hallway- sort of like a delivery to solitary confinement in prison. (I`m assuming here) Then there`s the unbearable situation that can occur the toilet clogs, a light is out, I forgot the code to the safe holding a crisp $5 bill and someone needs to come in to the room for an extended period of time. Maintenance people don`t mind you looking over their shoulder if there`s some conversation in it. Add all these seemingly small conversations up and that`s 10 minutes I could`ve spent on Netflix.

For those of you not as well versed on the art of the road trip, without an RV, the best alternative to a regular hotel is a motor lodge where the rooms are lined up in a row. They are designed for sneaking around- whatever the reason. Park right in front of your room and walk the ten steps to the door. Almost as good as an RV except that at some point you have to stop for a key to that room. No one will complain about your dogs or the other things you shouldn`t be doing because they`re doing them too.

See Things You Can`t See from the Plane

I`m not very intellectually curious. I never got in to healthy debates with teachers or other motivated students about a topic because I really don`t care that much. But I do suffer from travelers fear of missing out- TFOMO hits me hard.  Which is the part of flying that urks me the most. As I look down from the window of the plane- my preferred seat – I wonder what`s below that I`m missing. Probably something thrilling- like the world`s largest golf tee, or something entertaining, like the road signs from my home state:

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In a car, the more miles covered, the more in a hurry to get to the final destination, and the less likely one is to pull over to investigate some small, but potentially entertaining spot. With the handy RV,  pull over whenever the smallest stop promises even a small amount of entertainment because there`s always a Wal-Mart in the next small town when it`s time to call it a day. (Parking for free in the Wal-Mart parking lot has got to be fabulous. Just hang the “Beware of Dog” sign in the window to keep other RVers from inviting you over for s`mores)

As I discover every time I take a road trip, there are always places that I would never fly to see but I would stop if I happened to pass in my new RV.

Like- Santa Rosa, NM. Driving down historic route 66, which is now a parade of ghost towns, we found the home to the Blue Hole. Who knew it is a major dive destination. 100 ft. to the bottom- clear as a bell. 150 degrees outside and hardly crowded at all. Maybe because the dive in to the 65 degree water is dangerous to the heart.

imageimageWe got Spouse a new coffee cup-

imageFurther down the road was Sedona, AZ. Supposedly a vortex of crystal energy of all sorts. My mother was excited to know if the universe had shocked me upon exiting the car.  I don`t think I felt the shock of the macrocosm but it was certainly worth stopping for a hike.

imageAnd coming in to California, these dunes appeared out of nowhere and disappeared just as quickly:

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After reading ThirdEye Mom`s blog post about the Crazy Horse Memorial http://thirdeyemom.com/2015/09/09/pride-and-hope-at-the-crazy-horse-memorial/  I`d stop in if I happened to motor by in my RV.

Fewer Injuries

A hotel room provides unlimited opportunities for injury. Take for example the suitcase jutting in to the middle of the room during the night.

imageI didn`t take this with an electron microscope but it is equally scary. My toenails aren`t black they`re just painted to look that way.

When the Drive is Boring, Turn it Over to Someone Else and Nap

We saw a lot of this on the Western side of our trip:

imageAnd a lot of this on the Eastern Side:

IMG_5944That`s when having your stock of coffee, half and half and sugar come in handy. Give the keys to anyone capable of driving in a straight line, grab yourself a cup, and relax on the couch playing Words with Friends. Or nap.

So there you have it.

Won`t our friends be happy when we roll up and plug-in to their garage in something like this stunner-

IMG_6877-0Oh YEA I need one of these…….

 

If you need more info on RVing- read Kathy`s account of driving one with her 90-year-old Godmother  https://reinventingtheeventhorizon.wordpress.com/2015/06/29/cold-feet-nylons-knee-socks-and-my-rv-adventure-with-a-spanish-dancer/

It`s a little more balanced in terms of pit falls…..

 

 

 

 

 

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Culture Shock In Photos

For the past several days I`ve been trying to figure out how the Cloud ate all my photos. The ones that hadn`t been consumed were permanently frozen on my phone, no longer available for sharing, emailing, or converting in to captivating blog posts. My computer became wary that I would carry out all threats made against it and embarked upon  a self healing process where poof! All my photos reappeared. My computer winking at me in the background. Some of these pictures have had me reliving painful memories of culture shock. So of course I thought immediately to share them with you. My culture shock seemed to revolve around withdrawal.

There`s not one grain of sugar in all of Japan. We immediately went in to sugar withdrawal, our serotonin levels dropped and we realized that the milk and pumpkin ice cream was about as sweet as it was going to get.

Japanese children happily paraded around snacking on…

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I kid you not. Cucumbers on a stick. No ranch dressing in sight. Salt? Only in soy sauce. My blood pressure plummeted in the absence of all dietary sodium. I became the zombified version of my low energy self. Spouse had to slap my face to force blood in to my brain. I traded salt and vinegar potato chips for dried fish with peanuts and shrimp fries.

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The architecture seemed to be rated R. Asahi claims that this building is a replica of a frothy foaming beer in a mug. OK- what about the thing beside it? Is staring and pointing at a building as rude as doing the same to a person? I rolled my eyes toward the building and made grunting noises at Spouse to get him to look in that direction.

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He was engrossed in the car covered in grass. The Chia Car benefited greatly from the rainy season and would take up two parking places until the next trim.

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Peter Cottontail in a baseball cap was a morning commuter.

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My “no touch” zone dwindled down to the small area on my face used for breathing. Where was my giant American car with space enough for all of these people to sit comfortably? Me yelling “Don`t touch me or my stuff” did not resonate.

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It took six weeks for this to become normal. In no time I was napping on my neighbors in the subway, yawning at the buildings, and happily chowing down on anything that sat still long enough for me to grab it with chop sticks.

Good times, good times.

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Moving Diaries- Episode 2 Cont`d. I See Red Shoes Under That Barn

When we last left off, pots and pans, the coffee pot, and two suitcases were hog tied to the top of the car. Neither me, nor Offspring #2, nor any number of thieves would be able to break in to that bag once I was finished with the bungee cord -which also meant it would be inaccessible for the rest of the trip. However, I`d rather that then seeing pots and pans clanging down the highway in the rearview mirror as I did my bike one ill-fated road trip.

Our day was doomed from the start when these guys settled down on the neighbor`s roof.

 

IMG_3317I chose to look at the positive aspect of this sighting by adopting the Native American view of animal visits. Fittingly, a buzzard means “new life” in animal speak. After 4 moves in 3 countries spread out over 4 years, starting a new life wasn`t as appealing as it was 12 moves ago. But, the alternative view, being on the look out for something dead and rancid was less appealing.

Honestly, after six hours of looking at corn ….

IMG_5944admiring the highlights along the way,

IMG_5952and wondering who said, ” How much f`ing ham is served in 65 restaurants anyway?”

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I was feeling punch drunk. Admiring 500 miles of corn provides an explanation as to why top tourist attractions such as the world`s tallest golf tee (Casey, IL) and largest rocking chair (Fanning, MO) are hot spots in a mid Western tour. Somewhere between Cuba, Lebanon, and Paris, Missouri, the scenery started to change.

When this….

IMG_5925morphed in to this….

IMG_5932I called the Nose to inquire as to the boundaries of Tornado Alley.

When we headed in to this….

IMG_5998I woke up the hibernating Offspring #2 for a tornado check on Weather.com. Clear skies according to the meteorologist sleeping at his computer station.

First came the rain, then came the wind, then came small objects, garbage, branches, and tiny animals blowing across the road.

“I`m pulling over at that exit ahead or we might be the next thing blowing down the road.”

But between us and the exit, a tornado blew over the highway about a football field`s distance away, dropped a barn on the road, and was promptly hit by two trucks. Several myths regarding tornadoes were dispelled from my mind that day-

  1. It might make the sound of a freight train but it`s not loud enough to drown out OS#2`s music
  2. I didn`t see it coming from miles away like they do on storm chasers
  3. Don`t count on the cars around you to be smart about the need to take cover- They`re just as stupid as you are.
  4. A lady flying through the air on a bike isn`t the cue that a tornado is on her tail.

IMG_6548 I didn`t see any red shoes in the vicinity.

 

IMG_6547After sitting on the highway for three hours, we made our way to the next exit shaking and ready for a bathroom. The tornado had knocked out the town`s power which was why all the Subway employees were just hanging out when we came in to borrow the facilities.

“Whose barn was it?” Asked one of the management trainees.

I assumed in a town so small that barns are recognizable  a stranger in town would be also. Well that would be wrong.

5 More days to go…..

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Moving Diaries- Episode 2- One Teenager, One Car,Two Dogs, and 3000 Miles

In the Clampitt family we love our Offspring but it`s possible we love our dogs more. When you think about it, until the Offspring can talk, a pediatrician and a veterinarian are interchangeable. Both keep you up all night as infants and teenagers, and only later do discernible differences emerge. Dogs are always glad to see you. Teenagers are if you have food. It doesn`t matter if it`s been 10 minutes since the door closed separating you on the toilet from your dog, he will happily greet you, smiling and wagging his tail like you`ve been gone a lifetime.

A month or so before, our big dog got sick and he looked headed for the back yard cemetery. When he miraculously recovered and the time came to load him on a plane, the possibility that it would be too much for his sickly self caused me to do what I normally wouldn`t-  choose the path most likely to cause me pain and suffering. But this, my friends, is the only rationale I have for why I thought it was a good idea to load up one teenager, two dogs, and my menopausal self for a relaxing road trip from Philadelphia to Southern California. 2,777 long miles. For those of you keeping count, two critical members of the Clampitts were in fact missing- Offspring #1 recently deposited at college and Spouse who had road tripped earlier for entirely different reasons. Without dogs.

So first let`s meet the members of the clan you may not have seen. First, the elder statesman and teacher of all young dogs yearning to run in the tall grass. Harley. 100 pounds of bad breeding.

IMG_4346And second, the bribe to get OS #2 to Canada, Zoey. Because every teenager should have a wiener dog puppy for a day before handing her over to Ouisar- san full-time.

 

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My original plan included an RV and OS#2`s BFF. Leisurely driving, enjoying this great nation`s sites, napping and brewing fresh coffee whenever the urge hit. Overnighting at Wal-Mart locked in the RV didn`t sound so bad. That plan went up in smoke faster than marshmallows in the fire at the Uncle Sam`s RV park. Not a soul would rent an RV for a one way trip. Surprising given that the cost of renting the RV was probably a break even vs the cost of shipping a car, airplane tickets for us and the dogs, and all the minutiae that comes along with those logistics. OS #2 wasn`t nearly as excited to drive a UHaul van across country and BFF baled in favor of meeting us on the other side.

That`s how we ended up in a Toyota Rav 4. I started to realize the gravity of the bad decision I`d made once the dogs were put in the car leaving no room for anything other than a small make up bag, some dog food, a suitcase and OS#2`s road tripping gear- her pillow and blanket.

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Which is what led to the decision of putting a soft sided cargo carrier on the roof. Afraid it would topple off in the mid west somewhere, I bungee corded it to the roof with a mile or so of cord never to be opened again.

Which was perfect for when we got hit by a tornado.

It`s a long story- for next time.

 

 

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Moving Diaries- Episode #1

Forgive me blog friends, it`s been three moves and two countries since my last post. Those of you who hang around  me know I like to use pictures to illustrate my evocative ideas, however, I can`t find any because they are hidden on a phone that no longer works in the US. (The nice folks at the Genius Bar told me the sure-fire fix was to charge the phone) So  I`ll pick up where I last left off next time.

Yes, the Clampitts have a moving schedule that makes military families quake in fear. And there are a few stories along the way that I`ll only tell my closest friends- and you.

Suffice it to say, I feel that I am a Master Mover. If I had a job, I`d list it as one of my core competencies. I can move myself, I can tell others how to move, I can organize all stuff (the few things left that haven`t been broken) and I can evade the tax authorities in several countries at one time. (JK on that- we pay our taxes but run from our gambling debt)

One of the most important components of moving is to maintain an accurate file of medical and dental records. This ensures that there are actual dental records to use for identification or to prove to your child that the gap between their teeth came back after they stopped wearing the retainer as prescribed. My file for each person is legal sized, expandable, and fire proof. I`m proud of my records. They contain every piece of irrelevant medical minutia related to my children and since I never got around to making baby books for the Offspring, will be their record of my love. After all, there are pics included in those records- X-rays of their skulls from the panoramic dental view to the pre and post braces  close-ups. I`ll have them bound at the local Kinkos when they leave for college.

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I felt pretty smug when I waltzed into the latest dentist office with files and x-rays in color coded files. Assured I had gained a spot in the  “Best Practices of our Model Patients” I handed over the treasure trove that is my rich dental history.

“Oh Ouiser-san, we are so happy to have you. We`ll take a quick look at the latest x-rays and call you back in just a minute.”

I sat down in the waiting room confident in my lack of plaque build up. The hygienist was so efficient I didn`t have time to get past the “Chatter” page in the current People magazine before she emerged from the back my file in hand.

“Umm, Mrs Clampitt,” she hesitated as she leaned way to close to my face for comfort, ” these films are of your latest mammogram.”

Definitely not my teeth.

I`m not as good as I thought.

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The Canada Goose – An Animal to Love or Hate?

The answer depends on which side of the border you reside.

I will speak on behalf of all Americans- We`ve all slipped in green poo.

Most of the infamous Canada geese who purportedly fly south for the winter end up in the state of Pennsylvania. My personal belief is that the mixture of corn fields and huge landing pads makes for a perfect goose Nirvana. Majestic when heading south in the V-formation, these super flyers morph once hitting the ground, becoming a different species all together. Something along the lines of a winged, attack dog. I`d rather run up on a flying monkey.

The company I worked for had hundreds of acres of pristine country farmland which  doubled as a much-loved rest stop for the geese. A blinking neon wing unseen to the human eye pointed out this geese oasis. As attractive as a road side Cracker Barrel, most never bothered completing their trip further south and settled in for good with a “This is far enough” mentality. The geese were so overjoyed with these new digs they started producing millions of goslings. They even over ran the rabbit population.

Which if I had my pick, I`d go with rabbits every time as they tend to run away as you walk toward your car versus gathering several buddies to run at you, beaks snapping and gargantuan wings flapping. Oh- That doesn`t sound scary to you? Those gigantic wings tend to get very buffed on the flight down. SO buff in fact, that if you happened to gently lay an arm in the armpit of a goose- it could break it.

Fear not, no need to get up close with a goose in order for it to break an arm. One poor colleague learned the hard way when one of the zombie geese jumped out from behind a parked car hopping and snarling. It scared him so bad he ran into a parked car and broke his arm. True Story. We`re still laughing at him. I mean with him, with him.

These monsters from the North are so ferocious that the Border Collies hired to chase them ran away yelping after a run in or two. The plant manager finally realized that netting over the courtyard would prevent the monthly ritual of the goose parade through the hallways and outside. (Followed closely by the janitorial staff cleaning up the poo as the geese honked and hissed their way through the building) Heaven forbid your office had a window overlooking a nest. Mama would constantly harass the occupant, pecking the window, threatening and pointing-

goose eyes copyAs with many species, the reason they continue to prosper in the state of Pa is that the babies are cute. Even a garbage throwing, Santa Clause booing Philly fan has a hard time running over a family of geese crossing the road.

However, I`ve found a Canada Goose even an American can love.

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I used to laugh at the hood too until the wind froze my nostrils together.

The Canada Goose Parka. An American`s path toward loving the modern-day T Rex.

Living in a climate with temperatures to -70 ? ( C or F- doesn`t matter- it feels the same at that level) This is the coat for you.Technically speaking, it`s a parka. As a person who didn`t own a winter coat until I was 23, this was a nuance of language lost on me.  Without my beloved Canada Goose, I`d be forced underground for 6 months. Since we`ve got to eat, I would have to venture out to the grocery store at least once. Otherwise my alternatives were either a starving family or one living a pioneer life off frozen mushrooms scoured from the basement garage. Emerging from winter with scurvy, mange, and no teeth would undoubtedly color the Offspring`s perspective of Canada toward the negative.

I know, some of the Canadians reading this are calling me dramatic- or histrionic, because they know that one can in fact live an entire winter in Montreal underground. And Further, most Canadians think of the geese as logos since none have ever encountered one live. But those are different topics left for warmer times.

Until winter ends folks- mush on.

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Aunt Suzie sent me this after I posted. Looks like the folks in Seattle may feel the same way…

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BRING it.

 

 

 

 

 

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There are Bear in those Woods- or There Were Recently

Some of you may be concerned that I forgot about the story I`d started last time. This part of it cost me so much money that like a repressed memory, it`s hard for me to recall the details.

Whistler, BC was the site of this stop on our Canada tour. Most commonly known for the snowless winter Olympics and the picturesque town for Ski and snow bums, we had discovered it was also a major destination for summer adventure seekers. The snow runs become hair-raising mountain biking trails, fisherman cast for fish smaller than the worm used as bait, and the bears meander through the mountains eating berries all day long. Having been scarred as a child reading about a bear who slapped the face off a hiker in Canada, I decided to face my bear phobia with an adrenaline infused day watching them from the safety of a car.

The website claimed several bear sitings the previous days. A world renowned bear expert would lead us over the mountains and through the woods all from the comfort (safety) of a large car capable of plowing over a charging bear running after one of the Offspring. I happily charged one million Canadian dollars on the American Express for this once in a lifetime opportunity. The only problem I could anticipate was the 6 Am meeting time. We prepared our breakfast of hotel home-brew and packages of nuts the night before.

At 5:45 we drug our own hibernating Offspring to the meeting site, Spouse and I nursing our coffees. Our world renowned expert had sent his replacement for the day- a retired ski bum. Retired from her years of skiing and smoking pot, she had mellowed in to a hawk-eyed, bear spotting species conservationist. She nodded a greeting and commenced the tour without speaking. I took this as a sign to conserve our energy. It was going to be a banner day for watching bears in their native environment.

We started up the mountain in her SUV. She rolled down the windows, pulled out her binoculars and scanned the hill sides for crazed or grazing bears. The SUV must have been more to accommodate her driving than our safety as she never took down her binoculars to examine the road. We meandered slowly (thank the Lord) along the road, toward the trees, in the trees, out of the trees, directly down a black run on the mountain, over a stacked log or two, through deep mountain trenches filled with running water, and eventually back on the road. In short, she scared the bears right back to wherever they go at night.

For five hours we combed the sides. No longer worried about losing my face to a bear, I began to steer clear of the Offspring in case they turned on me in revenge. Even Spouse was losing his enthusiasm. When I began to lick the sides of my coffee cup our guide decided to shift the focus from bear watching to signs of bear evidence. She must have been pretty sure our day was a bust as we were now allowed out of the car unfettered. Although comforted by the absence of bear scat, I held on to hope and screamed in terror every time the wind whistled through the pines. The Offspring were now throwing rocks off the sides of the banks in a desperate attempt at entertainment.

Our guide pointed us in to the trees. She looked lovingly at a lone fallen tree. Her face transformed in to that of an angel beholding the face of God.

“A den” she sang in praise.

We ran toward the den. I hoisted Offspring #2 in the air for a photo-op of her in the den.

“NOOOOOO!!!!” screamed our guide suddenly possessed with the personality of a demon. ” We can`t disturb this site!” It looked to me based on all the signs warning of its presence that it potentially had been disturbed before. But- we`re rule followers and I was going to angle for a return of at least $500,ooo if we didn`t see any bears- or other wildlife, or even birds- so I didn`t want to do anything to jeopardize my negotiating position.

Luckily Spouse was tall enough to drop the camera in the top of the den. So folks, for those you wondering what it looks like inside a bear den- here you go. The money shot. Literally.

20140202-094600.jpgAnd then this happened.

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JK- nothing happened.

I tried to sell everyone on the benefits of six hours driving up and down a mountain in silence. No one was buying.

Naturally we saw several bear free of charge.

While the next group of gullible tourists were up on the mountain looking for the bears on a Weight Watchers diet, the fat bears were eating junk food out of the garbage in the town parking lot.

20140202-095435.jpgFurther down the road, we found the smart bears using cubs to beg for food.

Unfortunately for Mama bear, OS#1 was driving and ran over one on the way out.

Not really,  OS#1 drives so slow the bear out ran us as you can see.

For those of you worried about the plural of bear- according to Websters, the plural of bear is either bear or bears. I`ve used them both for good measure.

So the lesson is that yes- there are bears in the woods but don`t pay to see them.

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The Biggest Drawback to the Clampitts` Move to Canada…

is Offspring #1 can drive.

We`re more concerned about ourselves than him as one of us has to sit in the front seat while he learns. It was much easier to guide him from the coffee table to the couch when he learned to walk- under those circumstances we were both not in mortal danger. As Spouse and I like to jump right in, we opted to let him learn some highway driving on our trek across Canada- starting with the drive from Vancouver to Whistler.

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I attribute this bad decision to jet lag and a need for blogging fodder.

Some of you more versed in the finer points of map reading might immediately recognize the topography along our route. Mountainous. You might also see that the highway runs along water. And those of you with advanced map reading abilities would probably deduce that such a road would be laden with curves and hairpin turns. Spouse and I are not of your ilk therefore our focus was on who had to sit up front rather than the dangerous and potentially lethal situation in which we had happily put our family.

One thing we did know was the person in the Passenger seat was in the most danger.

We did what we always do. We played rock, paper, scissors –  best 2 of three. Loser up front. I lost so someone must have outcheated me. I refused to sit up front. Spouse suggested another game of chance. Our next game involved picking a number between 1 and 10, the closest to the actual number (chosen by Offspring #2) was the winner. Spouse won again. I know  OS#2 had fed her father the number. Obviously another blatant cheating episode and I again refused the front. I had only one alternative-fake sick. Spouse argued period cramps did not preclude me from providing driver oversight. Luckily for me we were still in front of the Hertz car rental. I climbed in the back and refused to move knowing it would be difficult to drag me out with everyone  watching. I`m not without sympathy so I offered Spouse a legal -yet mood altering- substance. He declined so I went ahead and took it myself ensuring I would be very relaxed and unbreakable in the likely event of a collision. (Always carry NyQuil for these unexpected situations)

Offspring #1 donned his driving cap and we were off like a herd of wild turtles.

We soon realized that the topography we overlooked conspired for a perfect storm of dangerous driving situations.  Mountains, curves and spectacular views lead to driver looking at view while headed toward a rock face, driver hitting a curve going 40 mph too fast, or driver going too slow leading to a log jam of cars behind us. About half way to Whistler we were leading the Bunny Hop up the highway. Since all of us were most focused on the view ahead we failed to notice the train of traffic behind us. When we finally encountered the passing area, the 40 car conga line passed us each triumphantly waving the third finger in thanks.

As Offspring #2 and I were slung to and fro around the corners, it occurred to me that the seat belt alone could not protect us from the devastation wreaked on our bodies by OS#1 as he hurtled down the highway toward the various mountain faces. We would need to buy some additional protection for the next leg.

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Hard to get in a suitcase but handy for parties.

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You too can own one….

From the back our journey felt more like an airplane trip with a pilot engaged in war games maneuvers. Dips, roles, turbulence, birds, and bullets. Wait- there weren`t any bullets. That may have been more NyQuil than driver induced.

As is the case with these ill devised plans, the NyQuil just made me sleepy as I fought the constant barrage of nausea. When we weren`t slung against the windows, we were cast up toward the car roof. Cars behind us thought we were raising our arms in glee as the car lurched downward when protection of our heads was truly our goal. No longer worried about distracting the driver, we screamed every time we left our stomachs on the way down. It made a roller coaster ride tame.

We arrived bruised and battered from our sling shot drive. After a 2 hour ride where none of us saw the amazing views, we arrived in Whistler for two days of relaxation. Hoarse from screaming we mimed our need of a room, unloaded, rested, and prepared for the first agenda item.

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