Practicing Gratitude [08.25]

>> Thursday, August 25, 2016

So here we are at Thursday again. Man, the weeks just seem to fly, whether we're out and about or staying put.  We did a lot of staying put in July, but this month has been decidedly more out-and-about-ish.  With still more to come!

I'm grateful for the chance to attend The Man's annual family reunion at the beginning of the month.  Since moving up here to The Valley, we haven't been able to attend this gathering very regularly (we've missed six of the last 10) due to the travel time and work schedules. This year, amazingly, his scheduled four days off were Friday to Monday, enabling us to attend the ENTIRE long weekend! It was an incredibly hot and humid weekend and the nights in those stuffy cabins were pretty unpleasant, but it was so great to reconnect with cousins, aunts, and uncles whom we hadn't seen for a long time.  Most of the cousins and their families we hadn't seen since the last time we attended ~ three years ago!

I'm thankful I enjoy The Man's family.  I love chatting with his aunts and uncles and reacquainting myself with his cousins and their families every time we get to go.  And it was so nice to be forced into the water to cool off!  I'm not a huge water sports gal and I need it to be hot enough to NEED to get in.  The August long weekend this year was DEFINITELY hot enough!!

And I'm SO thankful for a WONDERFUL first-ever, family vacation.  It was over so fast it hardly seemed like we'd actually gone!  It was a week and a half full of visiting relatives, seeing countless amazing sights, and experiencing a bunch of exciting things, and a handful of "firsts" for all of us.  I'm grateful for safety in all our travels, good health, great weather, and no serious injuries.  (I was on the losing end of an encounter with a steep gravel road, but other than some ugly scrapes and bruises, I was fine.  I wasn't even all stiff and sore the next day like I expected to be!)

As awesome as the road trip was, I was grateful to be home again.  Sometimes, I think the vagabond lifestyle sounds so great ~ and my bucket list still includes a year of living in an RV, travelling all around North America ~ but I would miss an actual stationary home base, a place to return to once the travels were over.  I'm thankful for my home, as dissatisfied and frustrated as I am with it sometimes.

I'm thankful for the perspective taking a real vacation gives.  Before we left, I was dreaming of new, good quality living room furniture, new windows and doors, a deck, and replacing the main floor flooring, but now I just want another family trip!  I can put up with a lot of house imperfections if it means having another experience like we just had!!  Plus, we only have four summers left where both girls are still in grade school.

I'm grateful for 44 years!  I had yet another birthday on Monday.  It feels like they've been coming earlier and earlier each year... It was a day like most others, except The Man and I went out for supper.  We'd completely forgotten about some gift certificates we'd gotten a YEAR ago, so we finally used those.  I wanted to keep my birthday pretty low-key this year because we'd just spent a load of money on the trip, so when we actually got cash back because the meal didn't cost as much as the gift certificate, it was a nice bonus!!

What are YOU thankful for today?

Butterfly watching


The Mountains Were Calling

>> Friday, August 19, 2016

...and we had to go.
~ John Muir (sort of)

On Tuesday night we returned home from our first-ever family vacation ~ an 11-day whirlwind tour of sight-seeing and visiting relatives between our home on the Canadian prairies, through the mountains, and all the way to the west coast.  We put 4690 km (2914 mi) on the car, which averages out to roughly 4 hours of driving per day.  (it really felt like more!)

(click to enlarge)
It was tiring and almost too ambitious at times, but we had a lot of fun.  I have culled my pictures down to just over 400, but I'll try to pare it down a little more here!

Day 1: driving.  About 10 hours' worth altogether from our place to The Man's cousin's place.
After 5 hours on the road, we were hungry.  We stopped at the ONE town with no parks, or even picnic tables!
Although, as we were driving away, we noticed three tables just a few feet from where we ate our curbside sandwiches!!

Day 2: hanging out and getting to see the town with him, his wife and their three boys until after supper, when we moved on to our next destination
Day 3: a bird's eye view of the town from the mouth of the World's Largest Dinosaur, followed by a couple of hours checking out some pretty amazing dinosaurs at the Royal Tyrrell Museum in the morning, and then an almost-3-hr drive to a beautiful, small, quiet town just outside the very overwhelmingly cram-packed Banff.

AJ had to rescue her dad, who'd messed with this mama's baby!

See?  I can be fun, too!

Our favourite stop. Sorry we didn't have a couple more nights booked here.

Day 4: travelled just a few hours to a town just over the mountains and border to ride the Pipe Mountain Coaster!
A lovely couple from Virginia offered to take this shot for us.

Needless to say, they beat me back to the bottom!

Day 5: a 5-hr drive + 5 stops for various reasons = a 10-hr trip to Vancouver!
Driving in the clouds!

Leaving the beach via this tunnel under the railroad track.
Avalanche tunnels.  A common sight on this stretch of highway.

Day 6: Vancouver Aquarium and the ferry ride to the Sunshine Coast and The Man's Uncle & Aunt's home for supper and two nights

Amazingly bright moonlight on the waters of Georgia Strait with the lights of Nanaimo in the distance.
(taken from the deck of The Man's Uncle & Aunt's house)

Day 7: touring around their beautiful, small, and homey town ~ retirement planning began in earnest here!!

An otter enjoying lunch.
American readers of this blog probably aren't familiar with the TV show "The Beachcombers," but it was filmed near this community, and this is a pretty well-known restaurant as a result.
Day 8: a long, but fortunately scenic drive beginning with the return ferry ride and ending just outside Jasper National Park.

Day 9: a quick stop at the Mt. Robson visitor centre to view the highest peak in the Canadian Rockies and then off to Jasper to ride the SkyTram and do a bit of light mountain climbing!  Then it was another 4-hr trip to the nearest large city for night.  We had planned on stopping for a dip and a late lunch at the hot springs along the way yet, too, but we just ran out of time.  :(

I think this shot is my favourite one from the entire trip.
Waiting for our "flight" to the mountaintop.

It bugs me that The Man wouldn't let me climb this.  Sixteen years ago when we were last here, I did NOT have the leg strength or lung capacity to handle it, but this year I had no such issues.  What I HAD done, however, is gotten myself some pretty serious gravel rash two days earlier in a fall on a rather steep country road...
The view from the top (-ish).

Day 10: West Edmonton Mall World Waterpark in the afternoon and supper with another of The Man's Uncles and Aunts, together with their kids and grandkids, all of whom we hadn't seen for at least 3-4 years.

Day 11: the long, LONG ride home, interrupted by lunch with one of my cousins and her husband, whom we also rarely see.  Arrived home just after 11pm, exhausted and sorry it was all over, but so happy to be home again, too.  :)

Driving in the larger centers was a little scary and even with Google Maps helping us out GREATLY (our car doesn't have GPS), we still made a couple of wrong turns and had to scramble to figure out how to correct our course in the teeming traffic, but we survived!  I'm so thankful The Man was willing to do all the driving ~ those huge cities and those crazy mountain freeways... yikes!!

I was apprehensive at first about how the trip would go.  I mean, we spent a LOT of hours stuck in the car together.  For the most part, though, it went very smoothly, and we can hardly wait to do the next one.  :)

Just maybe a slightly less ambitious one next time...



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