17th September, Vancouver and North Vancouver:
Quote of the day: "Acrophobic! And you?"
Breakfast again. Oh, hey, maple syrup! Everywhere! Apparently they were just out previously? Like, completely?
We decided this was our best chance to get to Grouse Mountain. First, though, I wanted speakers for my music player, and Mom needed batteries for her voracious camera; the best option I'd found online for nearby speakers was Best Buy, of all things, so we headed that way. After a wrong turn and some crazy local-street maneuvering, with the Garmin hectoring me to turn or cross in problematic ways, we did get to the right place. We stopped in at a local bank to get change for the meter (dollar coins, I ask you! -- let alone two-dollar coins, my mother asks you!). We took a swift look at Canadian Tire, which did have batteries, but we decided to go on through to Best Buy to compare prices first. I found wee little speakers (that are magnetized, so I'll have to be careful with the room key and my credit cards!); Mom found a 16-pack of Energizer batteries for $10. Since the exchange rate is close to even, that sounded too good to be true, but the checkout clerk confirmed the price.
Starbucks next, to use up a gift card I got from the hotel, and then north.
Uuuuuuuup the hillside again; the new-model Prius's eco-mode is not so useful for that, but the "power" mode is fine. We parked, bought tickets, and got in line. The gondola to get up the next stretch of mountain was large enough, but it swayed more than I expected. Then we hit the first tower, which we were warned would cause sway ... and then every damn kid and half the adults started going "Whoooah! Whoooah! Whoooah!" with every resultant slight movement, which was really irritating. I held tight to the bar and looked around; I was generally fine, but going up isn't usually much of a problem for me.
The gondola stops most of the way up the mountain, but not at the top. There's a lodge with restaurants, gift shops, and a coffee shop. The coffee shop is called the Grouse Grind, which also seems to be the name of the hiking (?) trail from base to tip. Mom bought a t-shirt advertising that she survived the climb, a companion to the ones advertising we survived the Capilano suspension bridge, though I'm not sure being carried over the Grind qualifies. (And neither of us bought anything from the coffee shop of the same name, so it doesn't apply on a stomach-fortitude level, either.)
Oh, there are Starbucks locations at the base and lodge, I think. Naturally. There everywhere you might even think to be.
Mom indulged in her passion for photographing statuary, as well as an ordinary-looking deer, while I used her camera to get a picture of their sign explaining how "necsessary" their work in tagging hummingbirds is. We also watched the lumberjack show, which was entertaining; the actors were a strange mix of hammy and laid-back. We were assigned the back-country, poorly socialized "Blue Mountain" cheering section, for "Willie McGee", while the other side was assigned the more civilized "Green Lake" section to cheer some famous figure I don't recall. I have to say, I've seen rowdier bridge tournaments. (Kidding ... but not by much.)
As we watched, we shared a beaver tail. We both went in expecting something akin to a funnel cake or beignet, and there was a similarity, but the beaver tail was crispier. We had it with maple butter, though, which was delicious ... and highly messy.
We spent a little time trying to get pictures of the bears in the sanctuary, but they weren't feeling very photogenic, so we proceeded to the "scenic chair" ... which was a ski lift. I was a bit nervous about this, which I advertised. And hey, I rediscovered my acrophobia, yay! I was mostly fine, except for the times when we were crossing deeper canyons and the breeze kicked up.
At the top, I asked to make sure I could walk down, not trusting myself to hold it together in that direction ... and the staffer said that it was possible but they didn't recommend it for folks not wearing the right shoes. We got some pictures from way up high above Vancouver and then found the access road, which appeared to double as the hiking trail if you really needed it to; the signs advised the surface was loose and they didn't recommend hiking it. There was also a sign mentioning a bear in the area.
We explored a bit more, checking out the views around the wind turbine (but not going up to its observation deck, thanks; I didn't need the panic or the ticket cost). I glared at the jerk who tossed his still-lit cigarette butt into the bushes. I got a picture of a manhole cover conscientiously labeled as a "CONFINED SPACE". We also laughed at the zip line ("Air Grouse") across the canyon — oh hell no.
Then we had to go down. The day was warm in the sun but chilly at that elevation in the breeze, so I'd had my sweater on and off all day. As we mounted the stairs for the lift down, the staffer asked how we were doing. "Acrophobic!" I chirped, twisting my sweater anxiously in my hands. "And you?"
One moment, I had my sweater wrung tight in my hands; the next, we were in the chair, and my sweater wasn't. Panicking over where it had gone helped occupy me as we moved downward, facing the oh-my-god steep drop, swaying slightly in the breeze. I went through phases of fighting not to hyperventilate and being perfectly fine, except when they came thisclose to stopping the line from moving at all. (I had already warned Mom that if it did stop, I would likely scream.)
Before we were even dismounting, Mom was calling over that I'd left behind my sweater. (I really like that sweater.) They already knew; they were sending it down, but didn't know yet which chair it would be. So we waited around for ten or 15 more chairs, and then my sweater showed up on a chair all its own, tied to the security bar. (Mom and I joked about the need to be quick untying it, and I added "Who put a sheepshank in this!?" since that was the first knot I could think of quickly ... and then the staffer had a little trouble untying it after all.)
We wandered a bit looking for the nature trail, getting some good shots of the bears in the process. Then we hiked the nature trail, which was quite cool — and very private. We didn't run into anyone but the folks taking the ziplines across Blue Grouse Lake. After that we visited the gift shops for more t-shirts, sat a spell, and then headed back down. (The spirit-something-or-other gift shop was attended by a woman with an Australian accent; I'm really not good at accents, but I could swear I've encountered more Australians in the past few days than in my entire life combined before, including television and movies. I've also never seen so many Sikh (?) turbans or Japanese restaurants.) I was careful again about what I looked at, but I found that looking sideways at the hillside was mostly okay. The view down was really quite amazing.
We timed badly and hit the combination of rush hour and Friday-night-into-the-big-city traffic, so we tried to find somewhere to eat. One place had the Sox game on, 8th inning, but nothing I could really eat. We drove back and forth across that plaza, stopped in its grocery store to buy smoked salmon for one of Mom's friends (at a store that was weirdly reminiscent of good old PS), and then made our way back across Lion's Gate, which had cleared up for all but the merge onto it.
Dinner was The Dish, eaten there; Mom loved the lasagna, and we both found that a little balsamic vinegar goes a looooooooong way. Heading back to the car, parked all of three doors away, I greeted the well-groomed, leashed-by-halter cat that was eating something amid the young panhandlers but "didn't hear" their appeal for spare change.
We ended up watching Criminal Minds on Bravo — Mom and violetcheetah like it, and Mom passed the series-so-far over to me — so I got to see one I'd heard about, with Hotch all post-blowed-up and having ear problems. (We're not sure if that was actually Friday night or Thursday; we've run into a few airings of the series on a couple of channels.)
18th September, Richmond and Burnaby and Vancouver:
Quote of the day: "We're not doing shrooms. We're doing MDMA, acid, and [inaudible] ...."
Breakfast. We got off to a late start. We headed down to Richmond to see Robert Picardo, and we had real trouble finding the place; I don't think I've ever seen such a long business district as that, and most of the businesses were clearly geared towards a Chinese or Japanese market. We did find a Blenz, so we stopped there to try their coffee (their mochachillo was okay for the one time, but not something I think I'll get again, though Mom loved it). From there we finally found the Richmond mall, where we stopped to find pants for Mom at Zellers, and after more wandering I finally found Imperial Hobbies.
We got there at 1:30, which was apparently only moments after Picardo (and shaddyr) had left for lunch, to return at 2pm. We browsed for the next hour or so, having a great deal of fun checking out the games, until the actual return. He was quite lovely, and we have pictures of him and Mom together as well as a photo signed to her. (He noted his wife's name was the same, so we joked around about what she wasn't telling me.) One guy won at life by bringing the DVD sleeve to "Revenge of the Nerds 4" to be signed. We got to spend a few minutes chatting with shaddyr as well before leaving.
We then drove across Richmond, which was mostly open space (farms?) on the east side, and up into Burnaby to check out Canada's second largest mall. w00t. It's cool to say we did that, but ... it was a mall; other than Mom successfully finding shorts at that Zellers, we both just found it stressful and OMG crowded. We then drove up to get pictures of the outside of The Bridge Studios; headed towards Chinatown because Mom's friend has this thing about Chinatowns for some reason so she wanted pictures (while I squirm at the whole fetishization thing going on); and then went back to the hotel. I was dispatched to pick up lasagna (yes, we love it so!) as it started to sprinkle, while Mom watched a show about first-time homebuyers ("Property Virgins", maybe?), and we ate while watching a highly entertaining show about a disastrous home re-inspection and repair ("Holmes Inspection", maybe?). On the way back I passed the young panhandlers again, to overhear the above quote.
And then bed, early for me, yet still not really enough sleep.
And there, I think, is the rain, just barely starting to put in an appearance.
(Edited at just past midnight 20th September to add crossposting. D'oh!)
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