Browsing "USA"
Apr 29, 2009 -

Traffic Rule Differences

Driving all over Canada and the US, I’ve discovered that the rules of the road are fairly universal, but there are some variances. Here are three that I’ve encountered:

1) You can legally pass people on the right in California/it’s okay to drive slowly in the left lane;

2) Until very recently, you could not turn right on a red light in Quebec. The law was repealed so that you can now turn right on a red light in Quebec, except on the Island of Montreal and most intersections in the rest of the province. Even though I’ve spent most of my driving years in Ontario or on the border thereof, I still feel like I’m breaking the law when I turn right on a red light, or left on one at a one way street;

3) A flashing green in BC does not mean the same thing as a flashing green in Quebec and most of the rest of the continent, apparently. I learned this on Monday after nearly causing a ten car pile up, peeving off about ten drivers, being flipped off by about ten drivers, and having one driver make his opinion of my mental capacity very clear. In Quebec, a flashing green light means that the opposing drivers are sitting on a red light and I have the right of way to turn left. In BC, it means that the other drivers are also looking at a flashing green light, that I’m supposed to yield when making my turn, and that the light is pedestrian controlled. Oops. I apologize to everyone who was sitting at the corner of Kingsway and 10th in Vancouver on Monday morning around 11:30. I’m not an idiot or otherwise mentally deficient; I’m just from another province!

Bonus: your headlights must be on at all times when driving in the Yukon. *makes a mental note to stick a note by the door reminding myself to make sure I turned OFF the lights when I park Miranda*

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British Columbia, California, Canada, Driving, Law and Government, Quebec, Technical, Travel, USA, Yukon    4 Comments
Apr 12, 2009 -

Journey to the birthplace of Starbucks

Seattle rises out of the fog like an impressionistic painting, a gleaming beacon of civilization after a hundred miles of lush green mountains.

It was last night, in a fit of genius fueled by exhaustion, that my friend and I decided to go to Seattle today. She had put ‘go to Washington state’ on her list of things to do on this trip and when we realised that Seattle was barely two hours away, we decided to do something a tad more exciting than just going to Blaine for lunch.

We had an easy crossing into the States at Pacific Highway (the crossing we can see from my living room) and an easy enough drive to Seattle in pouring rain, arriving just shy of noon.  I’d had an idea of what we could do this afternoon, but my friend had seen the Seattle Aquarium as we came in and had her heart set on it, so our very loose plans changed.

I was famished (not news, lol!), so the first order of business was to drive around the general vicinity of the aquarium and look for food. We ended up at the Old Spaghetti Factory, where we both had a very satisfactory meal (I highly recommend the chicken penne).

Parking for the aquarium was the next order of the day and it was found quickly. Such a thing is ludicrously high in Seattle. We paid 14USD for 3 hours of parking, in addition to entrance to the aquarium.

While I had found the Vancouver aquarium to be quite disappointing, the Seattle aquarium was anything but! It has a touch pool, sea mammals, and interesting exhibits. My friend’s joy at the experience was palpable and her enthusiasm contagious. She fell in love with an anemone, while an octopus won my heart.

Rain poured down in sheets all afternoon, covering Puget Sound with a heavy grey mist. Neither one of us felt like driving home in damp clothes, so we didn’t explore the area around the aquarium. It was almost four by the time we got out of there and I knew the drive home would be difficult, so, satisfied and happy, we headed north without exploring Seattle further.

Approaching Bellingham, I suggested we stop and have dinner. Border wait times were already at the 20 minute mark and would only increase. I was also exhausted and achy from white knuckled driving seeing as there was enough rain that the car aquaplaned a few times. In the time it took to eat a fantastic meal at Applebee’s, the sky cleared. We drove the rest of the way home in beautiful sunshine and blue sky.

I didn’t realise that we needed to exit to get to the Pacific border crossing, so we wound up at Peace Arch. This was great seeing as the wait approached 40 minutes; my friend was able to see the Peace Arch and we enjoyed watching the sun set over the ocean. I did find the wait very difficult as I drive a standard and it’s a steady climb from the US to Canadian customs. I put on the hand brake a few times, but traffic was too steady to bring much relief. Crossing back into Canada was a non-event (note to my friend: whispering that the customs guy is really cute, even if he is, is distracting 🙂 ).

Pictures are on the Seattle page.

Each day has topped the previous, so we’re eager to see what wonders will mark our last full day together tomorrow.

As a side note, interstate 5, which connects Blaine and Seattle, WA, goes from the WA/BC border all the way down to the California/Mexican border. I have driven it from the Mexican border all the way to San Francisco and now from Blaine to Seattle. I just need to drive it from Seattle to San Francisco at some point! 🙂

(I never thought I would one day drive HOME from Seattle in two hours!)

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Nice Folks, Social, Travel, USA, Washingon    1 Comment
Feb 5, 2009 -

Touching a Dream

Who says that you should only fulfill one dream at a time? Sometimes living one dream can help you make another come true.

I acted on impulse tonight, did something without thinking it through at all. It might seem to some that this is how I make all my decisions, but that’s only an impression, because I don’t share all the behind-the-scenes planning. But this thing I did, I did without any reasoning. It was foolish and brave and on this second February 5th without my father, it was just the sort of thing my wounded heart needed. I truly think he had a hand at it.

Let’s start at the beginning.

For years, I have dreamt of visiting the Canadian north. I looked for jobs in Dawson City, Whitehorse, Inuvik, Yellowknife… Applied for positions in such far off places as Hay River and Paulatuk… Yearned especially to to take a ferry up the inside passage to Skagway and hike the Chilkoot pass to the Yukon…

Jobs were hard to find from the Outside and I didn’t have the means to get up there on my own. I did come very close to a summer job in Dawson City, but I didn’t have my degree yet, so the job slipped through my fingers. Then a friend and I were going to max out our credit and savings and go spend three weeks hiking in the Yukon. Several financial crises came up that spring and I had to cancel the trip. My father’s one final wish for his life was to take an Alaskan cruise. When we realised that he didn’t have much time left, I scrambled to find the necessary money to take him on such a trip. But it was too late; his doctor would not allow him to go.

Finally, I decided that the north was a dream I had to abandon. I never had any intention of settling there permanently and my financial situation wasn’t stable enough to give up everything to relocate there for a year or two and then come back. I also didn’t really want to see the north in winter. Been there, done that, after spending almost a full month in arctic Quebec in my youth.

So, there was no doubt in my mind, when I set off on my great big adventure last fall, that I would find my way to the Yukon. I dreamt of the Chilkoot, but felt that was still beyond my grasp. It’s just not something a smart solo hiker would do and the logistics of joining an organized group were daunting. I still researched options last June, to convince myself that even if I got as far as Whitehorse, the Chilkoot would not be doable, and ended up finding a tour group that departs from Whitehorse and returns you to Whitehorse. It offered the best itinerary, bang for the buck, and an easier(ish) seven day tour schedule. That’s the tour I would have done, if doing such a tour was possible.

I think my dad was speaking to me tonight because without any sort of prompting, I found myself on Google typing in “Chilkoot Pass”, and one of the first links that came up was for that tour company. They were still offering the hike, including one in mid-July, the date I wanted, and there was space for just one more person….

A lot can happen between now and mid-July, I have to figure out what to do with Miranda and the cats for a week, I need to come up with 1,500$ by the beginning of May, and I have to whip my ass back into shape, but I just put a non-refundable 500$ deposit on a dream.

All I can say is that fulfilling dreams is addictive.

How then am I so different from
The first men through this way?
Like them I left a settled life,
I threw it all away,
To seek a northwest passage
At the call of many men,
To find there but the road back home again.
(Stan Rogers, ‘Northwest Passage’)

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Alaska, British Columbia, Canada, Musings, Personal, Travel, USA, Yukon    7 Comments