#66: Food Tour

After our amazing experience in Mexico City, we decided that private food tours are our favorite thing ever, and we wanted to do all of them. So we spent two days eating our way through British Columbia!

This is part of our 100 Things in 2018 challenge. Make sure to click on the photos!

Our first day there we made two (two!) meal reservations, and planned a bunch of wandering in between. We found Burdock & Co., wherein we drank coffee with whisky and ate a number of delightful things. In our wanderings through Yaletown and Gastown, we discovered a place with amazing scones and great cocktails called Catch 122. We followed up with a multi-course dinner at Wildebeest, which was simply amazing.

On our second day, we booked an Airbnb Experience™. Alexandra Lam was our host, and she did a fantastic job showing us Vancouver. There was the best donut Becky has ever eaten (ever!), perfect scones,, French pastries, brick-shaped sushi, Montreal bagels, a gallon of maple syrup, and so much more. It was 5 of the best hours we’ve ever spent.

While not strictly part of an organized tour, we managed to eat our way through a good part of British Columbia. We found a lovely dinner in Squamish, an honest-to-goodness sugar shack, and the entire town of Kelowna was just lousy with good eats, but we specifically want to call out Salt & Brick as being a place for you if you love food as much as we do.

There are some trips where our mantra is “make every meal count,” and this is one of them. We think we succeeded. (Who are we kidding, we always try to make every meal count.)

#26: Road Trip No Destination

We have a way when it comes to road trips. First of all, there are two types: there’s the kind where you need to get somewhere, and there’s the kind where you don’t. Ever since 2014, we made it into a game. With rules. This worked in 2015 as well, but since we live kind of near a coast, and east and south were already taken, we were a bit more constrained this time around.

This is part of our 100 Things in 2018 challenge. Make sure to click on the photos!

We set the stopping point for our initial leg as Vancouver, British Columbia. After Lucy’s school let out, and the last-day-of-school potluck ended, I took her south to her grandparents’ house, then back home to load up the car with everything we thought we might need. Only then did we start heading north. We managed to miss Seattle rush hour, but that put us in a long line to cross the Canadian border, and we got to our pre-arranged hotel (we kind of knew this was going to happen) around 1am.

The next day we spent exploring Vancouver on our own. We walked through the Gastown and Yaletown neighborhoods, stopping at a unique sneaker shop where Becky bought a new little zipper bag that she couldn’t get out of her head. We also wandered Chinatown, with its million shops full of mysterious dried ingredients.

The following morning we did a guided food tour, which we looooved and will post about separately. We spent the afternoon collecting Roadside America stops, and headed north to Squamish, where we enjoyed a lovely meal and a nice riverside stroll.

The next day we went to Whistler. It was fun visiting the Olympic village and walking the high-priced alpine town. We stopped for a beautiful hike at Nairn Falls, and wended our way northward through the mountains. In addition to our starting direction, we were finding that town in BC weren’t very common, and the main roads tended to only go north and south. We did a bit of research and booked a room at Spring Lake Ranch, just north of 108 Mile Ranch, which is actually a bit further from Vancouver than it sounds.

On the way, near 70 Mile House, we spotted a Sugar Shack! This is a thing from the Northeast US and eastern Canada, which we first experienced during a freezing winter near Montreal. Everything there is about maple syrup, and if we hadn’t just bought a gallon of the best syrup in Vancouver (more about that in our food tour post), we probably would have bought a bunch here. Our meal was delicious and perfect.

Then we drove to Spring Lake Ranch. We were expecting a few cabins, but the truth is closer to a dude ranch than a resort. The place was just gorgeous, but when we tried to go for a walk, we were nearly eaten alive by billions of mosquitoes. We decided to spend most of the evening indoors.

The next morning we enjoyed a lovely breakfast with an amazing view, and then went horseback riding! (This was Becky’s first time, so it became its own Thing. Post forthcoming!)

We started heading east, seeing our trip taking shape. Without the network of roads criscrossing the country like in northeastern Oregon, drawing a random direction is generally no use at all, and we were far enough from home that we needed an overall strategy to make the whole thing work.

Around lunchtime we discovered the existence of River Safari, with a boat tour around Mud Lake. We donned our adventure hats and settled in for some wildlife spotting. We saw a young brown bear!

We booked a cabin in Tête Jaune Cache (apparently this is pronounced tee-zhawn by the locals) at the Tete Jaune Lodge, which we can’t recommend highly enough. The woman who checked us in was super friendly, the cabin was perfect, and a butterfly landed on me!

The next day we headed into Jasper National Park, which is so beautiful and dramatic that it’s hard to describe. In terms of tourism it’s a lot like Yellowstone, especially when there’s a herd of elk on one side of the road. This is one of the most beautiful drives either of us has ever been on. It really made the trip.

Our endpoint for the night was Lake Louise. I had been here before with Margaret and her family, and had fond memories of the lake and the lodge, both of which were just as I remembered them. We had dinner with an amazing view, then went down the hill to the room we could actually afford.

Now it came to the point where we had to make a plan to get home before our obligations overtook us. We took a detour to find the Deep Creek Tool Museum, and did not regret it one bit. This is home to the world’s largest non-motorized lawnmower, and a fascinating collection of other tools, machines, and et cetera. The owner, who is justifiably very proud of his collection and restoration work, gave us a personal tour and demonstrated several of the kerosene engines. So great.

We spent a night in Kelowna, a Eugene-sized city we didn’t know existed, but found out we really liked. We found a few more Roadside Americas, ate a delicious dinner, and turned in for the night.

The next day we had to make it home. There were a lot of miles to cover, but we don’t let that keep us from having fun. We stopped at a coffee shop in a converted church, shook hands with a sasquatch, crossed back into the US, saw the world’s largest waterfall, were chased by dinosaurs in Granger, and had lunch in a furniture store in Zillah. We arrived home tired and satisfied, and then headed straight out for a party.

So we didn’t get to follow our normal no-destination rules for this trip, but it was still very satisfying, and scratched that aimless-exploration itch for both of us. Now we just have to figure out where to go for the next one.


#33: Urban Adventure Quest

Doing scavenger hunts is a great way to learn about a place. This time the place was our home town!

This is part of our 100 Things in 2018 challenge. Make sure to click on the photos!

Puzzling Adventures has a Vancouver, Washington quest, which provided us with two hours of clue-searching and puzzle-solving in a downtown it turns out we hardly knew.

We capped it all off with some frozen treats at Ice Cream Renaissance. It was a great day.

#64: Anniversary Letters

Content warning: this post contains super mushy gross romantic stuff.

This is part of our 100 Things in 2018 challenge. Make sure to click on the photos!

A few years ago we tried out the idea of writing each other letters for our anniversary, and we loved it. It’s a thing we can pull out every now and again, maybe when we haven’t really been spending a lot of time together, and get a quick hit of that stuff that makes our relationship work.

This time we did it a bit differently. Over the course of the first few months of the year, we each wrote down a list of 100 things we love about the other person. It sounds like a lot, but it came surprisingly easy to both of us.

Then we arranged for a dinner date at DOC, an Italian restaurant that’s been on our radar for a while. We spent the entire time there taking turns reading our list items to each other, and thoroughly ruining the appetites of all the other patrons. It was disgusting. In fact, we hadn’t even finished by the end of our long, delicious, multi-course dinner, and had to go for a walk around the neighborhood in the dark to finish up. It took about three hours of grinning and warm fuzzies to finish.

We can’t recommend this enough. You don’t even need to make a plan or warn your partner, just surprise them one day with a big list! We promise, you won’t regret it.

And no, you don’t get to read our lists.

#8: Attempt to Summit Mt. St. Helens

There’s a certain kind of Thing that, when we commit to it, there’s no going back, and we have to plan our entire year around it. This is one of those Things.

This is part of our 100 Things in 2018 challenge. Make sure to click on the photos!

Our neighbors are involved with the Syrian-American Medical Society, which is an organization that works directly on the Syrian refugee crisis. Every year they organize a climb of Mt. St. Helens, and sell tickets to climb with their group as a fundraiser. There was no way we were turning down that invitation. An adventure? And we’re helping people? Count us in.

So we set our alarms for 4am the morning of the climb, and carpooled up to Marble Mountain Sno-Park, which is the only trailhead open for our Mother’s-day climb. We huddled up for some advice from our guide, who was very experienced on this climb, and agreed that, no matter where you were at 2pm, you’d turn around and head back down. We all signed into the climbers’ register, and set off on a gentle uphill trail. Which got steeper. And rockier. And snowier. And steeper. And steeper.

Mt. St. Helens isn’t a super-difficult technical climb, but we did have to buy some gear. Gaiters were essential, since the snow was at least hip-deep in places, and we were constantly in over our ankles. Trekking poles were lovely as well, they saved us both from falling over many times. Our hydration packs were spiked with electrolytes, which probably saved us some aches and pains. But probably the best investment we made were these slip-on snow spikes. These aren’t crampons, they’re much more flexible, like the traction chains you use for your car, but on your feet.

Becky and I separated at the 4 mile mark. She had been struggling with some knee issues and decided to be kind to her body. She made it well above the tree-line and is super proud of her 8 hard miles. (Note: right after this she started to see a physical therapist and a few months later the issues are almost completely resolved.)

At one point, one of our troop decided he wasn’t going to make it to the top, so he passed the SAMS flag to me to carry to the peak. Thus armed with a mission, I went on ahead with the matriarch of our group, and resolved to make it to the top by the 2pm turn-around. It was grueling. I’d take 50 steps, then stop and breathe. Another 50, then breathe. Drink some water. More steps. Eat a snack. More steps. I finally crested the top and peeked into the crater at 2:01pm.

From there I had just enough time to wolf down a sandwich and unpack the flag for a drone selfie of the team before we all started glissading back down. Let me tell you, sliding down a mountain on your butt is way easier than getting to the top in the first place. It was a fantastic experience.

Once we got to the less-steep parts of the descent, it became grueling again. The pace is faster, but it’s pretty strenuous clomping down all that way, and it just seems interminable when you’re this close to the cars and a feast.

The aftermath wasn’t what we expected. I kind of planned on not climbing stairs for a few days, and maybe spending a few hours in a hot bath. Turns out the only part of me that had any lasting injury was my face – I had some pretty bad sunburn from the bright snow. We were super hungry for a couple of days, but other than that it wasn’t really that bad.

We really enjoyed doing this. We did something really hard, with really great people, and had a really great time. Highly recommended, especially the Mother’s-day climb if the weather is decent (just remember to wear a gown!).