Our Great London Adventure

Our great London Adventure has come and gone – faster than a Lamborghini on the autobahn.  Speaking of fast cars – they were what impressed Mackenzie the most.  He pointed out to me all the Mercedes Benzes, the Lamborghinis, the Bugattis, and more.  I have never seen so many high end cars; some makes I had never seen before, let alone in so many numbers.

Me – I loved spending one whole week with my son, exploring a new place, visiting museums and exhibits, and talking about the rich history of the region.  Most importantly, I found common grounds for discussion with him. We both loved the war museums, especially their displays that brought the impact of war on ordinary people into focus.

We took some wrong turns on our explorations, but it just didn’t matter.  Sometimes those wrong turns opened the gate to an even better adventure.  You never know what you will find around the next corner!aa

Gates at Buckingham Palace
Gates at Buckingham Palace
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Aussie Adventures

Ah, my grand Aussie Adventure. What a fantastic trip of a lifetime!  Today I am still a little jeg-lagged, even though I have been home. I think part of the jet lag is from the usual exhaustion that comes after an awesome adventure.  As I reflect on my trip, I am left with many, many, many great memories.  But I think I can list the top five “ah ha” moments from my trip.

1. I am no longer a young traveling back=packing adventurer.  My tour to the Red Centre really showed me that I am older than I was thirty years ago! Aside from two middle-aged Korean couples, I was the only one on the tour over 30.  I watched the way the younger travelers interacted, the excitement and enthusiasm they demonstrated, and they way they still dreamed of what they will become someday. I quickly realized that their perspective comes from a different time in live. It’s not that I, nor others like me, can’t be extremely enthusiastic and excited because I know we can. It’s that the young have a slightly different perspective that comes naturally from being at a different phase in their lives. They are just starting out on their lives, figuring out who they are and who they will become.  I, on the other hand, have most of this figured out – more or less!   But, most importantly, even though I am no longer young, I still can have a very rewarding,  exhilarating, and exciting adventure.  I believe that tour companies and others have started to make great strides in catering to my age group but will need to do even more if they wish to cash in on the older adventure-seekers like me. 

2. My memory is not as good as I thought.  Over the years I had developed my own version of my backpacking trip of over 30 years ago. My vision of Australia’s landscape, culture, and space somehow morphed into something vague and ephemeral.  In other words, I realized that my memory had captured some images accurately, while others have merged into scattered random images and senses.   I was surprised at how inaccurate my memory truly was.  But I am very grateful that I had the opportunity to revisit the places and get a better sense of what Australia really is.

3. Small acts become grand adventures.  The most fun I had on the trip came at random moments, not from carefully scripted and planned tours.  Some of the most fun we had came from simple moments such as playing cards, making up silly songs, or taking a wrong turn. 

4. It’s not what you do, it’s how you do it. 

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Three Sisters Forever

5. It’s not what you do, it who you do it with.    Number 4 and 5 really belong together.  This trip was special not because I went to some amazing places. Nope, it was really special because I had the most awesome time possible with my sisters and assorted family members.  As Bonnie says, this trip was the  perfect storm of awesomeness.  We all had great times together, but also had enough alone time to get the space of each of us needs.  We all had moments of hilarity, combined with moments of grumpiness, Fortunately, the  hilarity far outweighed the grumpiness.  And we played well together.  We rolled off each others silly puns, fell into the jokes and pratfalls.  To put it simply, we had a ball!

A Tally

OK. Bonzo, we are going to do 55 adventures before January 28th, 2014. So, I’d better keep a score:

Love this motto!
Love this motto!

Going backwards, starting in late October

  1. Retirement!  I agreed to take a redundancy and will finish my formal time with the college at the end of December. So, the big Freedom 55 adventure looms.
  2. We bought recreational land near Beaver Mines!!! This purchase should count for at least 10 different adventures.  Each time I go out, I take a different walk or travel a different road. I am getting used to carrying bear spray, identifying critter scat, following animal tracks, and just being in touch with nature again.  Wonderful!
  3. Going to Waterton; Hiking Bear’s Hump and Red Rock Canyon – something I haven’t done for a few years.  IT was also Val’s firs time up Bear’s HUmp.  So I think this day counts as part of the adventure.
  4. Nachos and drinks at Twin Butte Mexican Restaurant:  On our way back to the cabin, we stopped at Twin Butte’s Mexican Restaurant for nachos supreme.  I haven’t been to Twin Butte since the 1980’s. So, I think that trip counts as an adventure!
  5. Hiking to Bertha Lake -Val, Sue Bodie and I hiked to BErtha Falls. I found the uphill part to be quite a cardio challenge, but otherwise not that difficult compared to our hikes of this past summer.
  6. Dragon Boating: I started back to Dragon Boating. This year we fielded a women’s team. We had an absolute blast!  In early September we journeyed to Big Fork, Montana to participate in my first ever international dragon boat competition.  After two months of training, we really improved.  Our team posted our best ever time.  I can’t describe how much I love being out on the boat, feeling the water move beneath my paddle, soaring toward the finish line.  It is unbelievably AWESOME!

What did the Chilkook mean to me?

This tremendous, arduous, adventure is still top in my mind. I can’t believe I actually finally went to the Yukon and completed such a difficult journey.  I watch videos and view pictures and think that it should have been easier than it was for me.  But then I remember that I am indeed 55 years old, have never done a hike like this before, have not carried a heavy backpack since I was 23 years old, and suffer from arthritis.  So I suppose I did alright.  The Chilkook has been a journey done only in my imagination since I was a young student studying western Canadian history.  I was captured by the haunting pictures of Stampeders lining up to complete the Golden Staircase; of stories of eggs being sold for $2 a dozen (a price that at that time would have been like highway robbery); of hardship and treachery; and of innocent hopefuls being scammed by those wanting only to make a quick fortune off the backs of the naive.   I have wanted to go to Yukon to see it for myself. To view the endless expanses of nature seemingly untouched has been on my bucket list since I was young.    I am overwhelmed with a sense of accomplishment for finally having reached my goal.  I feel empowered to do more.  I have accepted that whatever I try, I will most likely be the “Leader of the Back” (one of the slowest ones on a trail), but I am OK with that place.  It doesn’t matter to me that I am slow or trudging; it matters  more that I set a goal and accomplished it.   Of course, not being near the back would be an awesome bonus, but really, the gold comes from just finally meeting my dreams.

 

The picture of the “Golden Staircase” below illustrates the hurdles to cross for those who ventured through the goldrush.  It also symbolizes my personal struggle to finally reach my dreams.  You can see the “Golden Staircase” path just to the left of center on this photo. The trail has a small patch of snow on it’s right side.  Image

Day One – Yukon Grand Adventure

The Grand Yukon Adventure

 

My journey through the trail of broken dreams

 

 

Day 1:

Fly from Calgary to Vancouver; Vancouver to Whitehorse

 

Arrived in Whitehorse at 1:00ish.  By the time we got our luggage it was 1:10.  The Eric Nielson Airport is a little bigger than Great Falls and is well adorned with local artworks.  We looked around for our guide, expecting to be greeted by a sign from our tour company – but no, we couldn’t see anyone looking for us.  I was disappointed, as I wanted to see a sign that stated “Gross / Leahy”.  We looked, looked, and looked some more.  I wanted to feel the slight thrill of being greeted. But as time went on, and no one was around, I started to worry.  I left a message with Vicki.  We then started phoning hotels to see if they had our names on their list.  I didn’t know the name of the tour company or the hotel.    Finally we found a hotel that had us registered, so we took a taxi.

 

Once checked in, we wandered around town., ending up at the Great Northern Bastard Hotel, a quaint pub with a garage door front opening to the street.  We spent a little time chatting with the local character, a grizzled older man who obviously enjoyed sipping on beer frequently.  He then proceeded to recite for us – “The Cremation of Sam McGee” – the ubiquitous Canadian classic by Robert Service.   We knew then that this adventure would be filled with interesting characters and stories.

I then was able to get in touch with our tour company only to discover that they had been looking for us, thinking we should have checked in at 2:00 instead of 1:00. Probably we just missed each other!  Anway, we finally met our group at 5:00 back at the hotel.  We then met our guide Ryan, and were given our food packs.  Shocked at how heavy they were, we were a little uncertain of how we would be able to carry so much stuff. 

We spent the rest of the evening walking around town, taking in more of the sights.  Whitehorse is a very artsy city.  Many downtown buildings have vibrant historical murals painted on empty walls.  IT also has lots of outdoor art, including some very creative bicycle racks. For example, the bike rack in front of one coffee shop looks like a coffe pot pouring coffee.  Another rack looks like a white horse.  You get the picture!

The downtown is very people friendly.  A beautiful walking path follows the Yukon river for several miles.   At one end, near the new library and first nations cultural centre, a historic section is be refurbished. Old buildings are used for community-based projects such as family literacy and an arts coop. A downtown trolley uses the old narrow gauge rail system to transport people from one end of downtown the other. Closer to the bridge, they have built a beautiful park that includes the historic steamship, two outdoor volleyball courts, frisbee golf course, and playground.  I can see that in the winter, when the temperature is not too cold, many people would venture out to cross country ski or snowshoe.  Many lights dot the paths that I am sure would be needed in the winter. 

We arrived back at our hotel by around 8:30 so that we could repack for the next day.  I was very excited, and a little nervous about the next day.  But sleep came easier than I expected, despite the light outside.

 Pictures:  The Yukon River from downtown Whitehorse.  ImageImage

Did you know???

Did you know? So far the trip is doing exactly what I had hoped… I am finding out details about our past that I never knew, or I had long since forgotten. Did you k ow that my great grandfather Katterhagen bought one of the first model t cars in Uniontown, Idaho? Mom tells me that before world war one, he bought a odel t or whatever type of car was first sold there. He of course insisted on getting one right away. His first drive naturally had to be down mainsrett, where many locals could see him. Now, apparently he was a good wagon driver who probably could drive a wagon in his sleep. Most likely he grew up knowing how to use reigns and body pressure to turn, go forward, and most importantly, how to stop. Well, grandparoduly climbed into the new horseless carriage and starting driving forward, without any incident – that is until it came time to not only
Ark the car, but also stop it. As he
Lulled on he started
Ulling and
Using on the “reins” .. Er, steering wheel, grabbing it Andre.long WHOW Re
Eatery and quickly des.erate.y shouting whoa, whoa, whoa,. Needless to say, grand
As horse drawn carriage did not “whoa” and just kept right on rolling into the storefront.

40 days and counting

The final countdown has begun. It is now 40 days until I have to be packed for Europe. We leave on April 3 and return on the 12. I am finally starting to get excited about the trip. To think that in just over 40 days I’ll be looking at the Eiffel Tower, and gazing over the lights of Paris. I am so grateful that I get to show Mackenzie the world – it’s an important dream for me to expose him to different ways of life, different people, languages, experiences, and values. I had no interest in going to Europe when I was young. I thought the trip was to cliche, to overdone to bother. I wanted more adventuresome holidays – travelling to the north, and at that time, backpacking across Australia. When I was young, travel to Aussie land was still a rare adventure.

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