Wednesday, September 29, 2010

At last! At last!

I just glanced outside, and there it was -- my chariot, as Denzel called it -- the gleaming black Lear jet that will whisk us off to Willow's Manor for the Annual Ball. I'm still basking in the glow of last Autumn's party! I can hardly believe that a whole year has passed.

Just a moment. I am dressed, but I need to fasten the clasp of my diamond necklace...such a nuisance. It must be my excitement that makes it so difficult. I know. I'll just ask my handsome escort to fasten it for me.
 What do you think of my shoes? I decided this year to be completely impractical. These shoes had a lot to do with that decision -- I simply couldn't resist them.  They will show off my delicate ankles when I lift the hem of my gown in one of the livelier dances.

Oh, and speaking of gowns, this is the one that stole my heart. I know it's daring, but I'm feeling strangely free tonight, as if my time has come to shine.

It was the back of the gown that I found irresistible. I hope it has the same effect on my date.

Oh, yes. Judging from the expression on his face, I'd say the dress is a success, wouldn't you?

"Denzel, would you mind?"

"Not at all, my dear. It's my pleasure."  And he fastens the diamond necklace around my neck, then twirls me to get a proper look at me in my dress.

"You look fabulous," he says, and we're away. Our pilot helps us both into the plane and, at a nod from Denzel, goes to the flight deck, leaving behind a chilled bottle of Bollinger and two glasses. Denzel pours. Oh, my. Champagne. My head was already spinning with excitement, and now this!

It seems as if we have just left the ground, and already I see the lights of the runway below us.  We land perfectly, and when I look outside I see a friendly face. It is our chauffeur, who will drive us the last part of our journey. He waves and smiles.

In moments, we pull up outside the Manor. Oh, just look at it -- the fairy lights are enchanting, and I can hear the music. Is that Leonard Cohen I hear?  Yes! He's singing "Dance Me to the End of Love." Oh, what could be more perfect?

"Shall we?" says Denzel. He gives me his arm. I feel like a princess. As we reach the door, our lovely hostess appears, beaming, and hugs us both.  "Come in, come in," she says. Then she whispers "A few people arrived rather early, so don't be surprised if the party is a little lively already!"

To be continued......
Preparing for the Ball

I have had the most wonderful time getting ready for the ball, probably setting a world record for speed shopping. I would show you my dress, but I don't want Denzel to see it until he arrives at my door.

Speaking of my door, we might have had a little problem in that I'm not exactly sure where I'll be when it's time to leave for the manor. I confess that I was a little worried,  so I called Denzel. "No problem, my dear," he said. "I'll find you wherever you are." The next thing I knew, this photo arrived on my phone -- with a note reading "Your chariot,  madame."  Isn't Denzel a darling? I needn't have worried. No matter where I am, we'll be able to get to the ball on time.


Update:  We drove to Butte this morning and took The Turtle to Brooks-Hanna Ford. To our delight, they were able to put poor Turtle together again in just over two hours, at 1/10 the amount it cost us the last time we had an exhaust problem.  During our layover, we walked over to something called Montana Club and ate lunch. Our sandwiches came with a choice of salad, soup, or fries. We asked what the soup was, and the waitress answered "Spinach - cream of spinach." Predictably, Robin made a face and I said "Yumm."  When my soup arrived, I gave Robin a taste; he changed his mind, and soon he had his own bowl of soup. My impression was that the kitchen had skipped the cream and gone straight to butter, the soup was so rich. I think it was a 4,000 calorie lunch, but oh, my. (Who was it that said there's no such thing as "too rich"? Wait. I think that was me.)

In the course of the day, we left behind all traces of the Great Plains and moved into the North Woods. We've stopped for the night at Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, not far from the Washington border and only 399 miles from Angel May's house, where we hope to spend the next couple of nights before we take the ferry to Vancouver Island and head home.

That means that  I really should be resting for tomorrow's drive -- but what are the chances? Oh, look at the time! Denzel will be picking me up in the Lear jet any minute now, so I'm off to make myself gorgeous.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

This is what happened: My sad tale of woe

Yesterday, we drove from Jamestown, North Dakota to Miles City, Montana. I had begun to get into the rhythm of the trip, and I rode contentedly along, noting changes in the topography, thinking about what I would wear to Willow's Manor Ball and who my escort would be, planning to write about it when we settled in for the night.

At Miles City, the very kind lady who ran the RV park assured us that yes, there was wi-fi. She was right. There was indeed a wi-fi network, and we did manage to log on to it for a minute, but then we were thrown off, and we never did manage to get back on -- so there went my plans. On the bright side, we had stopped at about 1:30 in the afternoon to check out Theodore Roosevelt National Park -- specifically Painted Canyon -- and I had taken a lot of photos there. In lieu of trying to remember what happened yesterday, a lot of water having gone under the bridge since then, I'll show you those. Then I'll tell you about today.

So that was yesterday. Today, we left Miles City at 8:30 in the morning. Everything went well until mid-afternoon. Highway 94 had given over to Highway 90 at Billings, Montana, and we had got as far as Livingston, just a few miles east of Bozeman. Suddenly, the engine quit. Deja vu. The last time we drove through this part of the world, the same thing happened. And happened. And happened. We knew what to do. "We should loosen the gas cap," I said.

"I did that this morning," said Robin.

Hmmm. After a dozen or so false starts, we managed to limp off the highway and into the lot of an RV dealer/repair shop. They had a look, said it was probably vapour lock, but advised us to take the machine to Silent Knight Muffler Shop (I love that name) in Bozeman and have our exhaust leak fixed. Sure enough, we had noticed a noise -- but we just had the exhaust fixed. Oh, well. Never mind. Off we went to Silent Knight. The fellow there sent us to the Ford dealer in Bozeman, who in turn set up an appointment for tomorrow morning at the Ford dealer in Butte, about an hour and a half from here. Tomorrow morning, then, we will find out whether this is a quick fix or whether we have to cut our trip short and head into Canada.

So here we are, at a very pleasant place called Sunrise Campground, baking in 30C heat but otherwise comfortably settled for the night. The wi-fi actually works (a big plus) and the office offers a no-charge loan of dvds for the night. I chose "Crazy Heart" on the manager's recommendation -- (When he came  back to the office after showing Robin to our site, he said "Your husband said you would be bringing back a chick flick." so I asked him to pick one we might both like.) And --- I got "Letters to Juliet", which was recommended to us just the other day.

Meanwhile, there still remains the problem of getting ready for a ball -- and by the way, my apologies for not linking to Willow's blog when I first brought the matter up.  So far, this is what I've decided:

My date. As soon as I let it be known that I would attend, the invitations came flooding in. (So little time...)  Colin Firth was on the phone within minutes, wanting to repeat last year's frolic, but that would be so -- last year, no? I considered going with Robert Downey Jr., but he's been doing all that Iron Man stuff lately, and I wasn't sure that was the kind of image I wanted to present -- then I came across Denzel's note, scribbled on the back of his calling card (Isn't that delightfully Old World? I'd never have expected it!).  "Let's dance the night away," he wrote.

Oh, yeah. Denzel it is. Here he is with that other redhead at the Academy Awards, looking as if he'd much rather that I were there.

Speaking of redheads, I should confess that I've let my redness slip of late, opting for a more Distinguished (old) look -- but for the Ball, I can reverse that process. Also, it should be said, I tend to wear my hair quite short (like this)

but again, the Willow Manor Ball is a magical event, and for the occasion, I intend to look more like Rita Hayworth in Gilda.

There. I have a date, and I know how I'll be wearing my hair. Now I really must start shopping.

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Sunday, September 26, 2010

I'm Late! I'm Late!

Well, I'm not really late yet, but I haven't much time. I just found out that I've nearly missed Willow's Manor Ball. It's four days from now. Oh, my goodness. Such a lot of shopping to be done, and I'm way out here in the Old West. I wonder how Robin would feel about staying here for a couple of days longer, tucked into the Frontier Fort RV park near the Buffalo Museum in Jamestown, North Dakota. I know it's not a shopping mecca (or I assume it isn't. We had trouble just finding a supermarket!), but we do have wi-fi, so I could just sit here and let my fingers do the shopping.

Somehow, though, I think we'll be leaving in the morning, as scheduled, heading west on I-94. I'll use my driving time to figure out who my date will be. Tonight , I'll start assembling my glorious evening apparel...and I'll remember to RSVP. You know, I really enjoyed the ball last year, and right now, an evening at the Manor sounds like just what the doctor ordered.

Before I go shopping, though, I should tell you about today. We started out in Minnesota, and I discovered that I quite like the place -- apart from the highway we drove, which was put together in blocks, like dominoes, so that as we drove, we heard and felt the seams. It was like this:





for hours on end. It drowned out my radio shows, and it made me grumpy.

The towns, however, were charming. I told Robin that I half expected a red-headed kid to come running out, singing "Gary, Indiana" with a lisp -- except, of course, that he would have had to sing "Aitken, Minnesota" or something similar. The towns were neat and tidy and the streets were wide. The trees were turning colour...

...and then we were in North Dakota, watching as the trees got shorter and shorter, then pretty well disappeared. The roads got better, though.

p.s. I almost forgot -- here's the song for you.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

One Day, Three States

And two posts in one day! Feast or famine.

We woke up in Michigan, drove into Wisconsin rather sooner than I expected, then found ourselves in Michigan again. Sigh. The roads were better in Wisconsin.  Never mind. After a while, we were in Wisconsin again, and finally -- about supper time -- we fetched up in Minnesota. We drove through Duluth as quickly as the city's massive roadwork project would allow, headed down Hwy 35, and made our way to the KOA campground (excuse me. Kampground.) near Cloquet.

All day, I berated myself for being so wrapped up in my homecoming that I forgot to take photos of the autumn colours in Ontario. At one point I pulled over at a rest stop so I could take at least a few pictures. I'm afraid my photography doesn't do justice to this season. The colours are virtually edible. I know I was looking at birch, maple, oak, sumac, and all the other lovely deciduous trees set against a background of evergreens, but as I drove along, I thought lemon-lime, peach, mango, papaya, pomegranate, cherry -- Have I mentioned that I'm always hungry?

Meanwhile, I enjoyed my usual love affair with NPR. Today's treat was a long bluegrass show out of -- Ashland, Wisconsin, I think. And by the way, when I went to program Ashland into Maggie (our GPS), I discovered that there are Ashlands in Alabama, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Mississippi (I think. Is that MS?), Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Virginia and, yes, Wisconsin. Heh. I knew about the one in Oregon. There are also listings under "Ashland Town of" in Massachusetts and New York. The world is so full of a number of things, you would think we could show a little more originality in our place names.  Or maybe we want to take a little of home with us when we move to a new place.

Anyway -- NPR.  Bluegrass. The show started with bluegrass, but it wandered some. I enjoyed this song -- but now I can't find the version I heard.

We moved out of that station's range right in the middle of this next song. I was most annoyed. Thank goodness for YouTube.

Funny. As we make our way home, I'm finally getting into the spirit of this, enjoying the travel for its own sake, not too worried about how quickly we're moving, how soon we'll be at the next landmark. There are just so many things to see. Today's drive (and to some extent, yesterday's) took us through town after town that was settled by Scandinavians of one sort or another. I remember a shop called "Swedish Passport" in Norway, Michigan. However, every town seemed to have at least one shop specializing in pasties. Pasties? They're Cornish. That calls for some research. Holidays are too short.

Also, the town of Crystal Falls, Michigan caught my eye. It has the most gorgeous courthouse. Photo from Wiki

Tomorrow, we make our way to I-94 for a less scenic, but quicker, trip across the middle of the country, hoping to visit more friends on the way home.
This is what I have learned:

Actually, you can go home again, but it hurts. It's also confusing and funny and chock-full of conflicting emotions. I'm glad I went. The thing is...

But wait. I'm getting ahead of myself. There's something else I learned. That is, if you drive from Manitoba into Ontario near the town of Kenora and make your way around Lake Superior, it takes three full days to get from there to Peterborough. I'm sure Ontario is bigger than Texas, and until Day 3, it's pretty much of a muchness. We weren't impressed. When we got to the Kawartha Lakes district, though, and the place names were familiar to me, my heart started beating faster, and then the 80 km speed limit got really annoying. Coming out, we drove the 401 through Toronto, Kitchener, London, etc. instead. It was much quicker, and it got us to Saginaw, Michigan on the first day, even though we stopped in Toronto for coffee with an old (British Columbia) acquaintance. Yesterday we drove from Saginaw to Escanaba, which is in a very scenic area on the northwestern corner of Lake Michigan. We should be having lunch in Wisconsin and maybe, just maybe, supper in Minnesota.

Now. Back to going home again. I became a (reluctant) vagabond when I was eight years old. I've lived in many places, enough that I think of myself as not really having a home. When I talk to other people who have a strong sense of home, I'm at once envious and baffled. However, I lived in Peterborough for over twenty years, my children grew up there, and it's about as close as anything gets to being home to me. Imagine my shock when, after being away for  nearly twenty years, I got to Peterborough and discovered that (1) it had grown and (2) I couldn't remember my way around, even in the part of town where I used to live.

Never mind. My daughter was there. She moved home a couple of years ago, and I hadn't seen her since. The great knitting marathon I engaged in last month was to produce "Rosary", her birthday sweater, and I got to give it to her. She loved it. She wore it everywhere, including our side trip to Ottawa. I took this photo outside the Aviation Museum, where she and I had a picnic and talked (and talked and talked) while the menfolk were inside, looking at airplanes.
Then we went to the Parliament Buildings and climbed up to the top of the Peace Tower. From there you can see forever, or so it seems. I think this photo shows the bridge to Hull, Quebec.

The following day, an old and dear friend picked up my daughter and me and took us on a tour of the town -- and a couple of nearby villages -- to show me what had changed, what hadn't. We visited a wool shop in Lakefield, enjoyed an end-of-season coffee at a charming lakeside cafe, and did a lot of remembering.

While we were out gallivanting, Robin took a cruise through the famous Lift Locks. I think that was the highlight of the visit for him.

Altogether, the visit was too short, and my eyes have been leaking since we left. I saw people I had known and loved, found that I still knew and loved them. Even though things like being able to find my way home from the grocery store had slipped my mind, the important memories were still there. I had been away so long, I was nervous -- fearful -- about going back, but I'm very glad that I did.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Swan River, Manitoba

I think Swan River is about the halfway point, geographically speaking, of our eastward journey. It's taken us over a week to get here, though, what with staying two nights in Burnaby, three at Fairmont Hot Springs, plus losing time over the brakes and tire. We are now moving freely and, best of all, stopping whenever we want to, just by pressing on the brake pedal.

We spent last night in Ituna, Saskatchewan. It turned out that we had missed Mike's eightieth birthday party. It was on Saturday. Even if we had got the date right, the delay for repairs would have made it impossible to get there on time.  The bright side was that we got to eat the leftovers -- dolmades, borscht, plum cake, poppy seed cake, perogies, sour cream, mushroom gravy made with morels. Also, I'm much more comfortable in a small group of people than at big parties, so I was happy. Our hostess (Beatrice) and I exchanged knitting stories and played at show-and-tell with our various projects. When we left this morning, I was carrying a big bag of frozen perogies and containers of borscht and gravy. I just managed to fit everything into the Turtle's freezer compartment.  I fully expect to arrive in Ontario having gained another five pounds.

Now we're in Swan River, visiting more friends. This is our last scheduled stop before we get to my daughter's house. The next two or three nights, we'll  be winging it -- which is more like our usual style.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Thunder and lightning...

I finally have wi-fi, and now there's a thunderstorm threatening/happening/threatening again, so I may have to be more succinct than I had planned.

The trip is going much better now that the brakes have been fixed and the left rear outside tire has been fixed for the third time on this trip. Traveling through the Rockies is so much more exciting when the brakes are failing than when everything is working correctly.

We left Burnaby (Vancouver) on Monday morning, the last day of Labour Day weekend. Traffic was no problem, probably because while everybody else was going home to the city, we were leaving. Nonetheless, there were logistical problems. One of our party had to stay behind for a business meeting, so it was after suppertime when we finally all got together at Nk'mip RV Park in Osoyoos. We had dinner together before children and grandchildren headed up to their suite at Spirit Ridge Resort, just up the hill. When we started out again in the morning, it felt as if we had barely stopped at all.

The grandchildren took to Turtle travel with great enthusiasm. I was delighted. They seldom fussed at all. Instead, I got to drive happily along, listening to their chattering and giggling. At one point I heard their mom singing "99 bottles of milk on the wall", which set me to giggling.

The grandchildren's favourite spot was my over-the-cab boudoir. As long as they managed not to hit their heads on the ceiling, they had themselves a perfect hiding place, complete with a curtain they could pull across the front. Whenever I wanted to sleep, I had to make a space for myself among the toy cars and colouring books. It was great.

When we finally arrived at Fairmont Hot Springs  (I'll skip over the drama -- suffice it to say that we arrived safely) the kids released some of their energy on the jungle gym while the rest of us admired the wildlife that had come to join the party. It wasn't until the following morning that we hit the pools. In the course of our visit, Jujube (that's our four-year-old granddaughter) became the star of Fairmont Hot Springs. Jujube seems to be part seal, and everyone who saw her swim (she swims underwater for long distances, coming up for air and then ducking right down again -- and she is completely fearless) --  everyone who saw her was amazed.

Then there was Jumping Jack, who is two and a half years old. He can't swim, you see -- but he greatly admires his sister, and anything she does, he wants to do, too. The upshot of that is that when Jujube goes swimming, J-J gets excited, leaps off the side of the pool or out of the arms of whoever is holding him, goes head-first into the water, and sinks like a stone. Whoever is trying to care for him then has to reach into the water and haul him out. He emerges grinning, wiping the water from his eyes, and squirming for a chance to do it all over again. He simply will not believe that he can't swim. It's a joy to behold, really it is, all that fearlessness and joie de vivre, but it's also terrifying. I'll be glad when he does learn to swim. He will be a force to be reckoned with.

It was all over too soon, the mini-holiday with the grandbabies. Yesterday, we headed off in our opposite directions. I got a text this evening saying that they had arrived safely at home. Meanwhile, Robin and I spent a night in Sparwood, B.C. at Mountain Shadows, a very simple and quiet campground -- they did provide firewood, in case we wanted to make a campfire and toast marshmallows or something, but what with the pouring rain, we opted for rummy at our kitchen table. Afterward, I listened to a Norah Jones cd (with earphones, not to break the silence) and knitted.  I was thinking about my children's grandmother, who knitted and knitted when she was younger, but now can no longer do it, because her eyes are failing her. I'm teaching myself to knit with my eyes closed, to put off the day when I'm deprived of that simple pleasure, the click of needles and the feeling of wool moving across my fingers. I closed my eyes, knitted, listened to the music, thought about Mom, and squeezed back tears.

Today, we drove right across Alberta (eight hours) to Swift Current, Saskatchewan, and we've settled for the night at Trail Campground. Tomorrow, we have a four-hour drive to a birthday party in deepest Saskatchewan.

Meanwhile, I'll go back to my knitting.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

It's a bit chilly in here, and there's an air of neglect -- but now that I'm on the road again, snugly tucked into the Turtle, it's high time I wrote something. During my exile, I have made a good deal of progress on a blanket I'm knitting for a grandbaby that's on the way. I have also designed and knitted a sweater for my daughter, a four-week project that reduced me to tears only once. I'm proud of the result, and when I get to Ontario and present my gift, I'll post a photo of the sweater -- and the daughter, too!

Meanwhile, we are in Burnaby, spending last night and tonight here. I had breakfast with my son, took new measurements for his sweater-to-be, and bade him farewell again. We always seem to be saying good-bye. Tonight Robin and I are to have dinner with the grandbabies, their parents, and their maternal grandparents. It will be a Chinese feast, so my mouth is watering in anticipation.

The grandbabies just came out and explored the Turtle. They most enjoyed climbing up to my bunk, the big bed over the cab. Jujube took to it just as I do -- as a wonderful cave, a refuge. Jumping Jack took a look around and promptly came back down to examine the cab itself.

The plan is to leave first thing tomorrow morning, a two-vehicle convoy, and head for Osoyoos, where we will spend one high desert night. The youngsters have booked a hotel room, and we'll take a site at a nearby RV park. Then we're all off to Fairmont Hot Springs for a two (three?) day stay before Robin and I head east and everyone else heads back home. The Turtle is packed with crayons, colouring books and stickers, apple juice and Goldfish crackers, to make it a welcoming place for the grandchildren.  This is a very different adventure for us, and I think it's going to be great fun.

p.s.  I discovered this video this morning, and it just fits.

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