Friday, July 22, 2016

Road Trip Days 21-23 - Long Days on the Road, a Respite in Missoula and Coming Home.

'Articles in this series - 
Day 1 - On The Road Vancouver to Yakima
Days 2-3 - Miles and Miles OF Miles and Miles (Yakima to Butte to Yellowstone)
Tips for visiting Yellowstone
Day 4 - Full Day in Yellowstone

Days 5- 6 - Mammoth Hot Spring to Aberdeen South Dakota
Days 7-10 - Food, Family, Farm & 4th of July Fireworks in Aberdeen, South Dakota
Day 11-12 - Five States In A Day, A Fake Palm Tree, An Exploding Tire, Traffic and Kingston Arrival!
Days 13-16 - Exploring Kingston and a Cottage Visit
Day 17 - Toronto - ROM's Chihuly and Tattoo Exhibits & Fab Dinner At El Catrin
Day 18-20 - Express Ferry, Crazy Water Tap, Weird Signs, Bugs and a Rattlesnake Warning Sign!
Days 21-23 - Long Days on the Road, a Respite in Missoula and Coming Home


Clark Fork River in Missoula Montana. See the tiny M on the hillside?
Every town in Montana it seems has the town initial on a local
hillside if there is a hillside available.
AHH - the final post.  23 days on the road is a long time and we are getting weary. In fact, after driving 4 days straight, we decided to stop for an extra night in Missoula, Montana, for a break. We really had no idea what we were doing when we booked our hotel, we just totally lucked out.

The Red Lion Inn turned out to have the best hotel wifi, a very comfortable room, beautifully decorated breakfast area and it was situated a very short walking distance from a series of walking trails along a river and through a park. There was also fly fishing nearby which called Glen.

Our full day here we went our separate ways.  I wrote a travel article in the morning, then hit up a nice coffee shop - City Brew - for an iced latte. That was followed by a couple hours walking the trails along the Clark Fork River and surrounding parkland, snapping pictures here and there. Along the south side, the was several great green spaces with trails, a skateboard park, a few interesting buildings and cool oases to be found under the bridges.















As I crossed to the North side of the river, I found a Missoula Saturday Farmer's Market in progress. It was packed with people shopping for local produce and food items.  Nearby was a great carousel, est. 1995, the long line-up filled with families waiting their turn. Attached to it was Dragon Hollow, a free play area built with over 1,000 volunteer hours.















The highlight of this walk was a lookout at a small river rapids which created a back wave that locals used to surf on a very short board and to practice kayaking. Then as I finished my stroll I enjoyed a wonderful array of beautiful flowers in bloom. I ended my alone time by writing a second travel article and followed by a leisurely hot bath while reading a great chic lit novel.

Super short video of a pretty good surfer riding the river wave.
video

Glen went out fly fishing in the morning, took a break at the hotel at lunchtime and then went out again late afternoon. There were fish to be seen, but none decided that they wanted to bite what he was offering. The fishermen that were successful around him were using a type of lure he was not set up for. Oh well, it was still a peaceful time out in nature. When he returned, he showered and we went out for a simple dinner and then walked to the nearby grocery store to pick up lunch for tomorrow's drive.



Kudos to the Red Lion Inn in Missoula for location, friendly staff, comfortable room, lots to do nearby and the best free breakfast we had on our 10,243 K trip.  For those who do not know, the free breakfast varies from hotel to hotel.  Usually there is a lot of continental style items but the hot offering ranges from a simple dish of scrambled eggs to others that include sausage, bacon or potatoes.

A river Kayaker working the same wave.
video

In addition to the hot breakfast items, other options can include a waffle maker, toast/bagels, breakfast cereals, yogurt, apples and/or bananas and even a few times - biscuits and gravy, but it's usually the same each day.  At the Red Lion the hot option varied each day - one time offering breakfast burritos and sausage and the next cheese omelets, hashbrowns and bacon. WOW! This is the only time I ever was offered a breakfast burritos and it was delicious.



















The next 2 days were pretty much straight driving with stops for lunch, gas and bathrooms, so highlights were few and far between. We discovered a fog light had been demolished by a rock somewhere before this stop - the rock still sitting inside the casing.  One of the rest areas had literally a HERD of ground squirrels looking for handouts - the most I had ever seen in one place. Glen had to snag a bit to feed them of course.

2 young surfers learning the ropes.
video

Our last hotel stop was in EllensburgWashington. There was a glitch. When planning the number of hours to drive that day, we had forgotten we crossed one more time zone. We couldn't cancel, so called the hotel to see if they would let us check in at 2:30. Fortunately they said yes and then waved the early arrival fee. There really was nothing else to do in that town for just a few hours.















As it was so early, Glen snagged a fishing license and headed out to the local stream. An impressive thunderstorm rolled in which brought him back to the hotel quickly. It soon passed and he headed out again. He was happy to not just sit in a hotel, but the fish again ignored his vest efforts. I curled up with a great book and just relaxed. The only negative here was that the hotel's air handling wasn't set up right, so the strong smell of pool chlorine permeated the hallways. Fortunately it didn't come into the rooms.

The last day on the road dawned early for us.  Just a few days before we had been in Kingston, Ontario, a 3 hour time difference. The fact we were able to keep dozing until 6:30 a.m. was amazing. After breakfast we quickly packed up and hit the road. Nothing too exiting, just driving.

The only high moment was crossing the border. It was a good half hour as always, but we were back in Canada at last and I could finally turn my phone on. There were a whopping 4 missed voice mails on my cell. When I got home there were 7 messages on the answering machine. Obviously we were missed and despite all the texts and posts, many forgot we were not in town.

All is now up to date.  A few celebratory margaritas have been consumed and it's time for nap. Tomorrow it's back to work, but for the rest of the day, it's still vacation time.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Regina Shen: Endurance (Book 4) by Lance Erlick


Betrayed by her own mother, outcast Regina Shen has been trying to free her sister. Instead, she becomes a pawn in the World Federation’s struggle for power and succession.

Synopsis - 

Worldwide fertility has collapsed and the World Premier is dying, leading to a crisis of leadership. Battle lines are forming and Regina holds the keys to resolving the fertility crisis with her genome and elevating whoever can capture and control her into positions of power. Using her photographic (eidetic) memory of illegal books, she also holds the key to locating ancient artifacts that could save or destroy the Federation. In holding these keys, Regina should be treated as a queen, but outcasts aren’t even allowed to become citizens.

Having survived the swamps, deserts, and wilderness, Regina continues to try to barter for freedom for her and her sister, but the stakes are too high. Federation agents hound Regina to uncover ancient artifacts and serve herself up as a lab specimen to prevent human extinction. The disgraced Inspector Joanne Demarco pretends to be Regina’s ally to get her to deliver the location of ancient DNA vaults that could change the balance of power. Meanwhile, ruthless rivals are willing to do anything to destroy Demarco and control Regina.

Regina’s new journey will test her endurance, her ability to recognize opportunities, and her knack for avoiding capture. She will also face a tragedy and a strange twist of destiny that will shake her to her core and get her to question everything. Will she be able to overcome adversity or will she descend down an even more dangerous path?

Review - 

Regina Shen: Endurance is book four in a series by Lance Erlick. If you haven't read book one Regina Shen: Resilience (review HERE),  book two Regina Shen: Vigilance (review HERE) or book three Regina Shen: Defiance (review HERE), I highly suggest you do before reading Endurance. It's a great story regardless, but you'll have to do a lot of catching up.

In book three Regina managed to find and open the Alaskan fault. She distributed some the the seeds and genetic material to outlaws, but when the government agents pursuing her found it, it was blasted into oblivion.  Demarco still had her sister held in hostage and the next genetic vault to pursue was in the South, in the middle of a terrible desert.  Regina and Ester's trucking friends again found a way to get them there, but on arrival they were left on their own.

The two had to head off into the unforgiving desert with limited supplies and little guidance, find the well-hidden vault and solve the puzzle to figure out the entrance code. Warring government agents Demarco and Volpe were still hot on Regina and Ester's trail and there was no guarantee the next vault would survive.

Would Regina finally manage to give the government what it wanted - a solution to the dire fertility crisis?  It was the only way to get her sister released and so save her incarceration in a lab.

Buy the book:   Amazon   Barnes & Noble

Meet The Author - 

Fab behind the scenes interview with the author - HERE!

He was raised by a roaming aerospace engineer, growing up in various parts of the United States and Europe, as well as traveling through Asia. He took to stories as his anchor, including the works of Asimov, Bradbury, and Heinlein, and has been writing since age eleven.

Growing up, he was inspired by his father’s engineering work on cutting-edge aerospace projects to look to the future.

In an ideal world, Lance would find time loops where he could step out for a week at a time to read and write. Then he would return to the moment he left, without life getting in the way. Of course, since everyone would have the same ability, he suspects life would still sneak in.

Lance is also the author of short stories and novelettes.

Connect with the author:  Website   Twitter   Facebook   Goodreads

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Sunday, July 17, 2016

Road Trip Days 18-20 - Express Ferry, Crazy Water Tap, Weird Signs, Bugs and a Rattlesnake Warning Sign!

'Articles in this series - 
Day 1 - On The Road Vancouver to Yakima
Days 2-3 - Miles and Miles OF Miles and Miles (Yakima to Butte to Yellowstone)
Tips for visiting Yellowstone
Day 4 - Full Day in Yellowstone

Days 5- 6 - Mammoth Hot Spring to Aberdeen South Dakota
Days 7-10 - Food, Family, Farm & 4th of July Fireworks in Aberdeen, South Dakota
Day 11-12 - Five States In A Day, A Fake Palm Tree, An Exploding Tire, Traffic and Kingston Arrival!
Days 13-16 - Exploring Kingston and a Cottage Visit
Day 17 - Toronto - ROM's Chihuly and Tattoo Exhibits & Fab Dinner At El Catrin
Day 18-20 - Express Ferry, Crazy Water Tap, Weird Signs, Bugs and a Rattlesnake Warning Sign!
Days 21-23 - Long Days on the Road, a Respite in Missoula and Coming Home













It was a struggle to leave Toronto, but we were off early. The day before I had started to really feel off - dizzy and nauseous. It was only by the grace of Gravol I made it through dinner at El Catrin. But I was determined and the meds did the trick, allowing me to feel normal and enjoy the meal. That was short-lived as today it was worse. I woke at 4-5-6 a.m. and finally gave up. It took a little time to get myself car-ready, but we were on the road by 8 a.m.

As our trip driving from Minneapolis to Kalamazoo via Chicago was so awful, we decided to take a totally different way back. Enter the Lake Express - a fast ferry service between Muskogen, Michigan, and Milwaukee, Wisconsin. This let us by-pass the worst of the construction and traffic and do it from the comfort of a cushy chair.  It was pricey, but worth every penny - especially as this was the first of 4 days of straight driving. It also ended up saving us over a half day of driving time. They recommended motion sickness medication as it was a choppy day, so I popped 2. They not only kept me from getting motion sickness, they took care of the general yucks I was experiencing - a two for one effect.










Rather than give a day-by-day account, I think it's easier to cover these days by just sharing things that caught my eye a la Mr. Rogers style. Once you get away from the more dense states, a road trip takes form by slowing down and noticing the small things such as the wide variety of road signs. We saw everything from this sign designed to look like a big rig, to rusty farm equipment parked by the highway sporting ads, to an actual car standing on its front end with an ad for an auto repair shop painted on its hood. Unfortunately these fly by unexpectedly so it's hard to snap photos. Our stop at a liquor store introduced us to a concept I hadn't seen before - make your own 6 pack!

Left sign like big rig - Centre car buried like one used for auto body repair sign -
Right a mix and match beer/cooler fridge with empty six pack holders at bottom.





















The best cuppa I had was a Latte made for me in a Caribou Coffee shop located in a Hy-Vee Grocery store in Madison. It was smooth but had a lot of caffeine kick. We stopped at several others along the way, but none were as smooth as that one in Madison. Then there were the really hi-tech faucets in the Wisconsin Rest Areas. In looking them up I found they are called a Dyson Airblade. You held your hands under them to get water, then along the sides to start air flowing to dry them. A few of us struggled to find the right sensors and received the air and water in the wrong order

Couldn't resist showing you a video of how the Airblade works.

Most gas stops along major interstates have serious mini-marts attached as their main customer is travelers. One offered a breakfast bar under heat lamps second to none. It even had drive-in style hash brown patties.  Another had a mini-mart on the left and a nice restaurant on the right. In the walkway in between was the most amazing Wisconsin Cheese Co. display. It would put most grocery stores to shame.












There were lots of unusual things that caught my eye in Minnesota.  First was when we were again in a slow construction zone. Someone next to me was driving an old rust bucket of a car. To give it charm he had decorated it by covering it in old fashioned buttons.  If I hadn't been behind the wheel I would have snapped a picture. Then there was the craziest establishment name and sign I saw from the road - The Space Aliens Grill & Bar. Turns out there are several.

Check out the rain coming down from that cloud - all seen from a sunny place on
the road miles away. You just don't get that perspective in the city.














After all the traffic and construction delays we experienced in Michigan, Wisconsin and Illinois, we really loved heading into North Dakota. Immediately things became easier. Even if there was construction, the lower traffic volume meant it rarely slowed you down. I didn't manage to snap a picture of the North Dakota...The Rush Hour Commute sign, but thankfully someone else did.  The other thing I love about driving in the Midwest's wide open spaces is a connection to the weather. You can look miles ahead and see where clouds are dropping rain while you are in a sunny area.  We can't get that perspective in the city. See the image on the right above.

I cannot begin to describe how huge the RV on the left was and it was the first one I saw towing a truck behind it.












The dirt here was a salmon red colour and could be seen on exposed digs and in the slashes of dirt roads running along side fields. Almost every hotel we stayed in had their TV's turned to Fox News in the breakfast areas. Bugs splattered the windshield so frequently that each gas stop was also a window cleaning adventure. The sheer size of some  of the RV's we saw was also incredible - as big as semis with trailers - and occasionally they tow equally impressive vehicles.

Another thing we observed on both our way East and on our return home West was the large truly large number of big rigs moving merchandise and equipment. This was especially clear in any construction zone that slowed us down. Half of the vehicles would be rigs. I had no idea how dependent the economy was on the trucking industry.























Then there were the large refineries we drove by alongside the interstate in Billings. The sheer number and variety of vertical pipes was astounding. What was the unique use for each?  And every barn we saw, no matter what the state we traveled, was painted red. There are a few theories as to how this started, but it became fashionable in Europe and the tradition was brought to North America. Last but not least are some boxes we saw in a field in Montana. Best we could figure out was that they were portable bee hives that could be closed up and moved from field to field.

















The Continental Divide was a real poser for me. I honestly did not remember exactly what it meant. In laymen's terms, all the rivers West of the divide eventually run into the Pacific Ocean and all the rivers East of the divide into the Atlantic Ocean. It is a meandering line we crossed many times around Yellowstone National Park. Then out of the blue I saw a sign for it in North Dakota which made no sense. In looking it up, the main one most of us know is not alone. There are several others and one dips into North Dakota. The red line on the map above is the Great Divide that is what most refer to. The coloured lines are others. It's complicated. You can learn more HERE.

Left, Painted Canyon rest area view- Right, Rattlesnake warning sign on path to picnic tables at another rest area.
Glen and I used our lunch as a time to enjoy being out of the car. That meant carrying an ice chest full of edibles and stopping in rest areas along the way. All rest areas are not created equal. While most of these are roughly the same, there was a wide range. As mentioned above, the ones in Wisconsin had hi-tech faucets. Then there was one in Montana that had a rattlesnake warning by the trail to the picnic table. We had one placed right in town by a noisy freeway and another set at the truly stunning Painted Canyon in Montana's Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

After 4 days of travelling, we landed gratefully in Missoula, Montana. The scenery along the way had been interesting and diverse. The driving easy. But after 4 days we were ready for a break from the car.  2 nights - 1 full day - in Missoula is not a lot of time, but I intend to enjoy it fully.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Road Trip Days 17 - Toronto - ROM's Chihuly and Tattoo Exhibits & Fab Dinner At El Catrin

'Articles in this series - 
Day 1 - On The Road Vancouver to Yakima
Days 2-3 - Miles and Miles OF Miles and Miles (Yakima to Butte to Yellowstone)
Tips for visiting Yellowstone
Day 4 - Full Day in Yellowstone

Days 5- 6 - Mammoth Hot Spring to Aberdeen South Dakota
Days 7-10 - Food, Family, Farm & 4th of July Fireworks in Aberdeen, South Dakota
Day 11-12 - Five States In A Day, A Fake Palm Tree, An Exploding Tire, Traffic and Kingston Arrival!
Days 13-16 - Exploring Kingston and a Cottage Visit
Day 17 - Toronto - ROM's Chihuly and Tattoo Exhibits & Fab Dinner At El Catrin
Day 18-20 - Express Ferry, Crazy Water Tap, Weird Signs, Bugs and a Rattlesnake Warning Sign!
Days 21-23 - Long Days on the Road, a Respite in Missoula and Coming Home


The wonderful entrance/front of the Royal Ontario Museum.
There is a a tiny glimpse of the brick building it is attached to on the right.
It was sad to leave my daughter in Kingston, Ontario, but after 4 days of fun it was time to start the journey home. Fortunately our first day back in the car was a short one.  It was only 3 hours to Toronto where we would be stopping for the day.

Traffic had a few slow spots, but mostly we breezed through and were delighted to find our first stop of the day - the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) - was only a short distance from where we would be staying that night.  We had a tight focus for this visit to the ROM - the Chihuly glass exhibit. Glen and I have long been fans of this talented artist and have seen a piece here and there, but this was our first large museum show. We also decided to pop into the other special exhibit on Tattoos. I wasn't sure how interesting I would find it, but was honestly glad I went.

From Sand, From Fire Comes Beauty - Dale Chihuly


Both of these are LARGE exhibits.
Left, Blue and Purple Boat 2006 - Right, Float Boat 2014


Born in 1941 in Tacoma, Washington, Dale Chihuly was introduced to glass while studying interior design at the University of Washington and the rest is history. An injury forced him to stop glass blowing, so he now supervises a large team to bring his creations to life. His website is a must visit wonderland of images and videos. I really suggest you give it a look - www.chihuly.com/


My favourite - Laguna Torcello 2012 - The name refers to a lagoon island in Venice and gives respect
to the glass makers of that city. This is HUGE!. I would guess 30 feet long and maybe 15 feet high.
Chihuly has taken glass blowing to a new level with size, location and exhibition themes never approached before. From hanging chandeliers over the canals of Venice to the Light Of Jerusalem installation (over 1 million visitors) to a series inspired by disintegrating First Nation's baskets, he is one of a kind.

Northwest Room 2012 featuring his Tabac Baskets inspired by his collection of
Northwest Native American Baskets.
Left, Fire Orange Baskets 2016, Right, Persian Trellis 2016 (you walk through this one)








All I can offer here is a few humble pictures from my small camera.  You really have to see it live to appreciate the colour, intricacy and size of this exhibition. It's impossible to describe.

Persian Ceiling 2012 - best viewing is laying on the mats provided.
You really see the layering and small detailing from this angle.




Left - Famous sideshow act Artoria was tattoo'd by both her husband and Charles Wagner. She chose this
life to escape the extreme poverty of being a maid.
Right - Artist Charlie Wagner tattooing his wife. He started when he discovered how much money
tattoo'd man George Constantine made ($60 a week was a lot back then).
Okay - I'm really not a big tattoo fan because of it's permanence. I love change. BUT I have many friends who do embrace it, so my visit to this exhibit really was in their honour.  Where I turned my attention was an area I DO love and that's the history, culture and the journey of this art form from branding slaves to the cultural revolution it is today.  I have included a few pictures with notes below.

This covers a moment in history where tattoos were used to declare ownership of women.
What had the most impact on me was one of the videos available to watch. It was on 92 year old Whang Od of the Philippines (I noticed her sign says Fang Od - not sure why the difference). You really need to see this. It gives the history of tattooing in her village and how it moved from the barter system to as way to earn much needed dollars. Visitors come from around the world to be tattoo'd by her. How they heard about her, I have no idea.  



Her equipment is primitive and it's no question it hurts (just watch the Western man getting a tattoo and covering his eyes to hide his tears). I also found it interesting that in her culture, the tattooist decides on where the tattoo will be placed.  There are also designs she will only do on warriors.  

El Catrin

Located in Toronto's Distillery District, the award winning El Catrin Restaurant is one of my local favourites. The large outside seating area has the best atmosphere in my opinion, but it's on a first come first serve basis and the line-up can be very long.  Reservations are taken for inside dining. No matter where you sit, you need to take a peek at the decor inside - amazing Day of the Dead themed with tons of colour and patterns. The food is served tapas style so you get to try a large number of tastes.

Left Patio - Right one inside view

I love this What You Need To Know list from their website -
  1. We serve authentic traditional and modern Mexican cuisine.
  2. One of Mexico City's top chefs was hired to create and execute an ambitious wide ranging tapas style menu.
  3. The tapas style menu allows you to sample a variety of different items.
  4. We have the #1 patio in the city & its heated.
  5. Canada's best restaurant design firm was retained to deliver an incredible and unique atmosphere.
  6. It took three Mexican artists almost 100 days to create the city's most awesome mural. ( One of the artists was Oscar Flores – maybe the coolest guy in all of Mexico )
  7. The team is dedicated to fun caring customer service.
  8. The cocktails are off the hook and we have Canada's largest mescal and tequila bar with over 120 different labels.
  9. Lively music will make you tap your fingers or feet.
  10. El Catrin is an experience not just a dinner.
Some Google Images shot by other diners. YUM!

There were 5 of us this evening and as we didn't start to order until around 8 p.m., we were starving and ordered enthusiastically. I'm trying to remember everything we sampled, but not sure my memory is complete - Cocktails (everyone chose differently - Margaritas, Mojitas and one other), Guacamole and chips, Loteria Salad, Pand De Cazon, Pastelito De Cangrejo, Camarones En Pulque De Tamarindo, Gobernador,Gringa and not sure, but I think Pipan Poblano. No pictures were taken of the food as we were just too busy eating. The food was amazing!


Note - Before or after your meal, I suggest you take time to explore the Distillery District. It's full of dining, shopping, culture, events and historic architecture.  While we didn't have time this visit, I did a bit of exploring the previous time and intend to move it to the top of my list the next time I'm in town.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Road Trip Days 13 - 16 - Exploring Kingston & a Cottage Visit

'Articles in this series - 
Day 1 - On The Road Vancouver to Yakima
Days 2-3 - Miles and Miles OF Miles and Miles (Yakima to Butte to Yellowstone)
Tips for visiting Yellowstone
Day 4 - Full Day in Yellowstone

Days 5- 6 - Mammoth Hot Spring to Aberdeen South Dakota
Days 7-10 - Food, Family, Farm & 4th of July Fireworks in Aberdeen, South Dakota
Day 11-12 - Five States In A Day, A Fake Palm Tree, An Exploding Tire, Traffic and Kingston Arrival!
Days 13-16 - Exploring Kingston and a Cottage Visit
Day 17 - Toronto - ROM's Chihuly and Tattoo Exhibits & Fab Dinner At El Catrin
Day 18-20 - Express Ferry, Crazy Water Tap, Weird Signs, Bugs and a Rattlesnake Warning Sign!
Days 21-23 - Long Days on the Road, a Respite in Missoula and Coming Home

Alex feeding Stumpy the Chipmunk
at the family cottage on  Lake Bennett.
Notice the chipmunk is on the lower step
and instead of food is looking at the camera!

Day 1 - 

As we had been to Kingston, Ontario, several times to visit our daughter Danielle and her significant other Alex, we already visited a lot of the local sight-seeing areas. Both of them had to work the first few days we were here, so our day was pretty unplanned.  After 2 days on the road, that was just fine with us. We were ready for downtime.

The company Glen worked for has a super large production plant here, which I had only seen from the outside. So the first day, even though he retired in December, he decided to take me for a tour. Alex works there as well. In fact he met Danielle when he in training at the head office in B.C. where Glen worked and she was working as summer receptionist while in university.

Guess what? It is HUGE, over 200,000 square feet!  We said a few hellos at the front to people Glen knew and then donned safety glasses and ear protectors.  I was wowed by the size of the immense air handling units, then found that sometimes 3-4 of these actually were just part of one unit.

There were lots of overhead cranes to move things, a paint booth you could drive a large RV through without a problem and a giant machine that cut, bent and then put holes in sheet metal automatically. This was surrounded slightly smaller machines that did each of these steps individually for when the main machine broke - something that seems to happen frequently.

Mostly likely all those units in left image will go on several semis and connect to make one unit.















In the middle of the plant I was intrigued to see what I thought was a cold food machine dispenser.  I wandered over to take a picture and found out I was wrong . It dispensed supplies for the workers, things like heavy duty gloves. Each employee has an individual code they punched in to access needed items. This code is then used to track usage for each employee.

Left - Look a size of people in back. Right - dispensing machine for workers that I thought was a food machine.















As we continued our tour I realized we were getting lots of stares. It wasn't until near the end we figured out why. We weren't wearing the mandatory long pants and closed toed shoes - OOOPS!

After this I wanted one trip DT.  Every time I come I have to stop by the Kingston Olive Oil Company. First I get bottles of favourites that are running low such as White Peach Balsamic Vinegar and Basil Olive Oil. Then I ask what's new and pick up a few mini-bottles to try. This time I snagged Raspberry Balsamic Vinegar and Persian Lime Olive Oil. Lastly there are always a few gifts to buy. They are great presents for anyone who loves to cook.

Left - Man using blow torch to shrink wrap plastic, Centre - Cutting/bending/etc. machine,
Right - Man using one of the many overhead hoists.
















As we drove into the DT area, we hit serious traffic. A quick Internet search said the annual Kingston Buskers Rendezvous was running from Thursday through Sunday.  After parking we walked around, but only found one duo performing a comedy unicycle routine. This was during the day on Thursday, so I assume the evening would probably have more and the weekend was when the main events would run.

We ended the day with a fabulous meal made by Danielle - an amazing treat for me as I am always the one to cook at home. And let's face it, it always tastes better when someone else makes it.  This night we dined on roasted cauliflower, gnocchi with pesto and wonderful fish fillets cooked in butter and herbs. YUM!

Kingston Olive Oil Company















Day 2 & 3 - 

Day 2 was pretty quiet as well.  A walk, a pop by to see Danielle at work as she had a new job since our last visit, a short outing to the store and lots of reading, writing and downtime filled the day until everyone was home from work. Relaxed and quiet hit the spot.

Danielle at VON where she works with seniors - Alex in his office at Haakon


Very special this day was that Danielle again made a wonderful meal. You have to understand, she not only worked all day, but is still recovering from serious knee surgery and wearing a big knee brace. It's hard enough for her to at work all day as it's impossible to keep her knee propped up all the time. To then come home and stand in the kitchen for another hour making us a meal is a true sacrifice. Her knee was pretty sore by the end.
Cooking for mum and dad with leg brace on.

Tonight we dined on delicious caramelized onion and goat cheese tarts as a starter, followed by chicken, leek and cheese stuffed pitas and home made roasted yam wedges. Alex stirred up a Sriracha mayonnaise for dipping. We were stuffed! In fact I had to save half my pita for lunch another day.

Day 3 held an outing we had not done on previous visits, a trip to cottage country. Alex's family owns a cottage on Bennett Lake that was built 40 years ago by his grandfather and father. Everything was hand-hewn and constructed, even quite a bit of the furniture. Bird carvings done by his grandfather were scattered about.

There is a very European style wall inside that looks like a cottage within a cottage. It's too hard to describe, so I took a picture (below). The other great moment was when Alex's mum pulled out a pile of magazines from 1951-1956. The fashions, the ads and the headlines were just amazing to leaf through. From What Will We See On the Moon to talk of ways to avoid the beach police if you were in a bikini, we smiled our way through. One even had an article on a woman who doubled as Charlie Chaplin - the first Drag King as far as I know!

Alex, Danielle, Glen, myself and Orest (Alex's dad)
heading out onto Lake Bennett


The cottage is up on a hill with a nice bench at a lookout point. To get down to the lake and dock, Alex's grandfather made a crazy steep, long set of concrete stairs. I have no idea how he even made these without falling down the hill. The grade is that steep. Thankfully there is a hand rail.  I would hate to go down these stairs in the winter.  We were treated to a lake tour on their boat which they use for both fishing and tubing.

Small cottages were tucked in the trees here and there. Not surprisingly, a boat and dock accompanied each. Shallow areas we boated through sported blooming lily pads and we circled several islands. It was so peaceful and beautiful.  How wonderful for Alex and his brother to spend summers here. They even had a tree house to retreat to.

Then we rounded a point of land and realized a rain storm was coming right at us!  Pedal to the metal, we sped back to the dock as the storm hit.  I was behind the wind screen so fared pretty well, but Alex and Danielle were sitting out on the front of the boat and got quite wet. It was a hilarious moment with only one clap of thunder to cause a little concern. Let's face it - lightening and an aluminum boat alone in the middle of a lake are not a good combination.  We couldn't stop laughing as we debarked, though. It was a memorable experience.

Left - The cottage-in-a-cottage wall as Danielle calls it.  Right - Some of the amazing vintage
1951-1956 magazines purchased by Alex's grandma and stored in a cabinet there..

















It wasn't long after that the rain stopped. Alex and Glen headed down to the dock with fishing gear as Alex as interested in learning how to cast for fly fishing. To both of their surprise, fish were biting. Most were very small, but it was still fun.

Left - What Will We Find On the Moon , Centre - Maybe first Drag King?
Right top - Ad for vacation wear , Right bottom - cost/date on one magazine.
It turned exciting when Alex thought he caught a BIG Pike.  As he was reeling in this obviously large fish was when the real surprise happened. The pike opened his mouth and spit out a little Blue Gill. The Blue Gill was the one that had taken the fly and the Pike had tried to eat the Blue Gill whole. Way too funny. Glen caught several small Blue Gills as well. He tried to make it look bigger in this photo by holding it closer to the camera!

Left - Gourmet Diner - Rita and Orest (Alex's parents), Danielle and Glen. No way to get in the picture!
Right - Glen trying to make his fish look larger by putting it a lot closer to the camera.




The evening ended with Alex's mum serving a wonderful meal of chicken with sauce, rice, stuffing and baby carrots. Alex and Danielle provided a big mixed salad and 2 kinds of dessert. Again, wonderful not to have to cook - the food always tastes better. And let's face it, this gourmet fare is just not our average cottage meal.

Day 4 - 

Our last day visiting came oh so quickly. I woke up far too early, so took time while having my coffee to catch up on my travel blog.  Glen is going to help Alex with the installation of a new BBQ - converting it to natural gas and hooking it up to the gas source already installed by their deck. If the weather is good, Glen and I might take a long walk along a nature trail. A nap is definitely in order where I woke up so early.

For our final evening, I thought something we do at home would be nice - dinner and a movie night. It's our turn to treat so we offered them the option of  a meal out or take-out brought in. Danielle suggested the Tango Nuevo Tapas and Wine, a restaurant Danielle and I had lunch at on a previous visit. It was an amazing supper of small bites and each was oh so tasty. The only problem was you thought your weren't eating much, but by the end were stuffed.  We topped it off with a stop a Mio Gelato - a tradition.
















For the movie, we'll come back home and rent it to watch on their big screen TV. I suggested Zootopia. We have seen it but they haven't. I can't wait for them to see the scene where the main characters visit the DMV. It's priceless.  Below is a trailer featuring one of my favourite scenes. If you haven't seen the movie - DON'T WATCH!  It's best when you don't know it's coming.



Tomorrow it's off to Toronto!  This is the turning point where we start the long trek back home.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Regina Shen: Defiance (Book 3) ) by Lance Erlick

On the run, outcast Regina Shen is determined to stop the Federation’s relentless attacks on her family and friends, but the stakes are much higher now and she is deep in foreign
and hostile territory.

Synopsis -

The Federation condemned Regina to live on the seaward side of barrier walls, but she crossed into the Federation where she continues to survive by her wits. Competing Federation agents vie to capture her and use her to acquire power, based on her genome being the key to prevent human extinction. When her sister is kidnapped again and agents close in, Regina flees west with a friend across deserts created by abrupt climate change.

Raised on swampy islands and underwater salvage, they must adapt to different harsh environments. Guided by her photographic (eidetic) memory of illegal print books from before the Federation, Regina is determined to defy the Federation and find a treasure big enough to barter for freedom for her and her sister. In the cat-and-mouse game, can she find allies and ways to escape the Federation dragnet long enough to discover something to trade?


Review -

Regina Shen: Defiance is book three in a series by Lance Erlick. If you haven't read book one Regina Shen: Resilience (review HERE)  or book two Regina Shen: Vigilance (review HERE),  I highly suggest you do before reading Defiance. It's a great story regardless, but you'll have to do a lot of catching up.

Book three opens with Regina's time hiding in local mountains with an outcast group coming to an end. Her nemesis Demarco and Demarco's rival Volpe are closing in. The pressure from the government to capture her is high. Their hopes are that when captured, her blood and tissue will help solve the infertility crisis. She will become a lab rat. Before she flees she leaves crucial biological samples behind to hopefully help women in this group conceive.  Then it's time to run.

With a photographic memory and an ability to decode puzzles, Regina heads north to Alaska with a new friend in tow - Ester. First on cycles, and then behind the steering wheel of a large semi rig, the two make their way dodging capture at every turn with the help of fellow truckers.

What she hopes to find in Alaska is a vault with stored genetic samples.  Her talent for puzzles will hopefully help her open the code-locked door. With both Demarco and Volpe closing in rapidly, will the pair get lucky and continue to escape capture?  And if they do. will they be able to find that vault holding everything needed for the Federation to solve their fertility crisis without locking Regina in a lab?

Only time will tell!

Buy the book: Amazon   Barnes & Noble
Meet The Author - 
He was raised by a roaming aerospace engineer, growing up in various parts of the United States and Europe, as well as traveling through Asia. He took to stories as his anchor, including the works of Asimov, Bradbury, and Heinlein, and has been writing since age eleven.

Growing up, he was inspired by his father’s engineering work on cutting-edge aerospace projects to look to the future.

In an ideal world, Lance would find time loops where he could step out for a week at a time to read and write. Then he would return to the moment he left, without life getting in the way. Of course, since everyone would have the same ability, he suspects life would still sneak in.

Lance is also the author of short stories and novelettes.

Connect with the author: Website   Twitter   Facebook   Goodreads
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Saturday, July 9, 2016

Road Trip Days 11-12 - Five States In A Day, A Fake Palm Tree, An Exploding Tire, Traffic and Kingston Arrival!

'Articles in this series - 
Day 1 - On The Road Vancouver to Yakima
Days 2-3 - Miles and Miles OF Miles and Miles (Yakima to Butte to Yellowstone)
Tips for visiting Yellowstone
Day 4 - Full Day in Yellowstone

Days 5- 6 - Mammoth Hot Spring to Aberdeen South Dakota
Days 7-10 - Food, Family, Farm & 4th of July Fireworks in Aberdeen, South Dakota
Day 11-12 - Five States In A Day, A Fake Palm Tree, An Exploding Tire, Traffic and Kingston Arrival!
Days 13-16 - Exploring Kingston and a Cottage Visit
Day 17 - Toronto - ROM's Chihuly and Tattoo Exhibits & Fab Dinner At El Catrin
Day 18-20 - Express Ferry, Crazy Water Tap, Weird Signs, Bugs and a Rattlesnake Warning Sign!
Days 21-23 - Long Days on the Road, a Respite in Missoula and Coming Home

Stock image
We left Aberdeen, South Dakota, at 6 a.m.  This was to be our one super long day - most likely 13 hours of driving plus stops.  We wanted to make it all the way to Kalamazoo so that we could get into Kingston, Ontario, the next day at a decent time. It is best done as a 2-1/2 day drive, but that meant we would arrive during the day while our daughter and her significant other were at work. Oh well - only one day, RIGHT?

Looking at the map we had to laugh.  In one day you can drive across Montana or you can cross 5 states.  We had already virtually done the first. Today we tried the second. Okay, some states we only traversed a corner in, but we actually drove in 5 states today - South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana and Michigan. Impressive on many fronts

This whole trip so far has been touched by luck. We haven't had a day of rain. Super hot days had just enough breeze to keep us comfortable. We've zoomed through all road construction areas and even easily found parking spaces in Yellowstone during high season. So we knew a day of reckoning was coming, we just didn't realize what a tough day it would be.

Everyone of those yellow dots are road problem areas - mostly construction
If you look closely you can see sometimes there are 3 or for in one small area. YIKES!




















From Aberdeen we traveled east along highway 12, a small two lane that ambled in and out of equally small towns.  You'd be driving highway speed, then have to slow way down to go through town, then accelerate back up to highway speed. It wasn't bad at first because there was a good distance between towns. We drove along uneventfully, perfectly centered between 2 nasty storms. To the north and south were black clouds with regular lightening strikes. We had a simple drizzle that came and went.

The only note of  interest here was when I spied what I thought was a palm tree along the road. It was only when we got close I realized someone had trimmed an evergreen to look a bit like one. Unfortunately there was no time to snap a picture. This is a stock image below of something similar and I removed a few branches as well. Close as I can get.

Best stock image I could find of what I saw -
Did a little cropping to try to get the right shape.
As we began to get nearer to Minneapolis, the towns became so close together that you annoyingly spent more time slowing down than anything. We were really happy to finally jump on a proper interstate and head east.  All was fine until after Minneapolis. We started hitting regular construction areas. It wasn't too bad until halfway between Eau Claire and Madison, Wisconsin. Suddenly we were in a parking lot of cars and big rigs that stretched for miles.  It took us an hour to go about 10 miles.

When we finally got moving again we both breathed a sigh of relief. Unfortunately ahead was more. In fact, road construction would continue off and on for the next 300 miles. Thankfully there were periods of smooth sailing, but the construction zones were nerve racking and added a full 2 hours to our trip.

An expletive arises as I think of the Chicago portion of this day, but I think I'll just say I'm never going back, at least in a car. In fact we have re-routed our entire return trip to avoid it.  Tons of construction, toll roads that require you to pull off constantly and pay, super confusing interchanges (toll booth and toll exit road combined - unbelievably confusing), high traffic, frustrated drivers, people driving 70 mph in 45 mph zones and even exits you can only take if you have the special transponder. I have no idea what you do if you take one in error. Our GPS even lost it trying to offer alternative routes for the traffic congestion, road construction and more.  Interestingly enough - it wasn't even rush hour. YIKES!

Oases stop perched over the freeway.





















I was behind the wheel and have no idea how I didn't cause an accident. It's so messed up here, they actually have special turnoffs for visitors called Oases. Here you are allowed to exit without paying another toll, get a place to get gas or park and spend time in their enclosed food/shopping mall over the top of the freeway.

The scariest moment was realizing the person next to me towing an RV didn't realize black smoke was pouring from his rear axle/tire area on his trailer and his tire was wobbling back and forth, ready to fly off in my direction. I had to wake Glen up, catch up even with them, try to get the window down in Glen's car (managed to get every one down but the driver's) and point frantically while looking scared enough for them to pull over before the thing flew apart and hit us AND take an exit in 200 feet to pay my next toll charge.  I was shaking.

We also lost an hour with a time zone change (in addition to the 2 hours lost to construction), so rolled into our hotel room at midnight. Our 13 hour plus stops trip turned into a 17 hour marathon of hard work. We were exhausted but wired. It was 1 a.m. before we finally got to sleep. What a day.

Day 12


Blue Water Bridge Border Crossing
Fortunately the driving today was uneventful. We did see construction and closed roads, but everything moved a decent speed and the detours offered got us to the Canadian border right on schedule.  I was never so happy to see a border in my life. The Blue Water Bridge Border Crossing from Port Huron (US) to Sarnia (Canada) is via a large bridge spanning the St. Claire River. With lots of booths open, it was only 15 minutes before we were on our way.

After that, all went smoothly.  We took the 407 Expressway to avoid rush hour in Toronto and arrived in Kingston a bit early - only 7:40 p.m.  Lots of time to unwind, unpack and hug our daughter. Her significant other even made us dinner.

Only 2 notes this day. One was getting to turn my phone back on. We decided to put the US plan on Glen's as it was a little cheaper and use mine in Eastern Canada because I had a Canada-wide plan. 11 days of being reliant on someone else's phone and having to ask if I could use some data put me on edge. I'm used to my independence.

The other was a truly funny moment.  I was a zombie mentally after yesterday's 17 hour day. In fact, Glen drove all but one hour, thank goodness. We stopped at one of Ontario's OnRoute rest areas to have lunch. I'd had lots of coffee but the brain fuzz just wasn't lifting.  In a total daze I not only walked into the men's restroom, but kept going even though I saw the urinals and watched a guy combing his hair. I couldn't figure out why the men were looking at me.  Fortunately I finally clued in before I went into a stall.

A little humour in honour of my bathroom mix-up
As I humbly left, I had to keep telling the men walking in who saw me, "My fault." as they thought they'd gone in the wrong restroom. Nope just me.  You know you're tired when you go in a washroom and see urinals and men combing their hair and it doesn't faze you. Guess I'm totally ready for gender-less bathrooms as even walking out I just didn't care.