Friday, October 18, 2019

Trains and Grizzly Bears, A Canadian Roadtrip - Final Thoughts

Here we are at the end of another wonderful adventure.  Val and I really enjoy road trips and this was one of our best.  At 4,500 miles it wasn't the longest road trip we've done, but at 32 days, it was the longest time we have been on the road.

We really enjoy road trips as they give you a freedom to go where you want and see what you want without the restrictions of being on an organized tour.  The exception of course was the Rocky Mountaineer portion of this trip where we left the car behind and spent eleven days on the train and buses.

Western Canada is one of our favorite places and this trip didn't disappoint.  The scenery is beautiful and breathtaking and the Canadians are always friendly and helpful.  It had been a while since we've been up there, but I hope we visit again soon. 

Here are my best memories of this trip.

The Rocky Mountaineer - This was a trip we wanted to do last year and couldn't because of medical reasons, but we are very glad we tried again and were able to do it this year.  It is a wonderful trip with beautiful scenery, luxurious trains and hotels and a very professional staff who couldn't be friendlier or more helpful.  Everyone we dealt with was wonderful and everything was so well organized the whole trip went like clockwork, very impressive.  I would highly recommend the Rocky Mountaineer to anyone even if it's just a short two day trip.

The Aboriginal Journey Grizzly Bear tour - This was probably my favorite day of the entire trip.  To be taken out into the wild and see grizzly bears in their natural habitat going about their daily business of hunting and catching salmon was really something special.  Also, it was all in a beautiful location with rivers, forests and mountains; we were really out in the wild.  We are already talking about doing it again sometime.

Visiting Cathy and Heather - Last and certainly not least, we had a wonderful time visiting Cathy and Heather at their vacation home in McCall, Idaho.  We always enjoy being with them and they were such wonderful hosts and made us feel so welcome in their home, we just had a great time.  That part of Idaho is amazingly beautiful and we really enjoyed being given an extensive tour of the area.  Cathy and Heather, we can't thank you enough for the great time we had in McCall!

A few other things that stand out for me was the Long Beach Lodge Resort and the beautiful sunsets every night, discovering ambrosia apples in the Okanagan Valley, our little cottage in Campbell River, and best of all, sharing this wonderful journey with Val.

We have several things planned for next year, the first of which is a trip back to Michigan to visit my relatives that I may or may not write about in the blog.  The most exciting thing for us is a 74 day cruise that circles Africa that we are really looking forward to.

That's it for now so stay tuned and we'll see you on down the road.

Trains and Grizzly Bears, A Canadian Roadtrip - The Trip Home

Saturday, September 28 - McCall to Winnemucca, NV

We have a fairly long day today, but because we will be returning to the Pacific time zone and gaining an hour, we were in no rush to leave.  Val was feeling much better this morning, she still has a pretty heavy cold, but she doesn’t feel so sick.  It was sad to have to leave as we have had a wonderful time with Cathy and Heather.  Their home and the area they live in is so wonderful and they are the perfect hosts, making us feel welcome and very comfortable.  Thank you so much Heather and Cathy, we really hated to leave your wonderful home and beautiful area.

We were on the road by 9:30 Pacific time and drove back to US 95 and headed south.  The weather was cold, but sunny this morning.  They are expecting rain and maybe even some snow tonight.  The first part of our drive was through the wooded mountainous area, but before long we found ourselves in a more agricultural area with rolling hills.  We saw lots of onion fields and trucks full of onions and also fields of alfalfa, hops and corn and at one point we saw a giant pile of potatoes that was very impressive.

We also lost the sun as we headed south and the cold weather continued.  We stopped for a quick lunch and continued heading south towards the Oregon border.  As we neared the border, the agricultural area ended and the land became very desolate with very few towns.  It also started to rain lightly and by the time we actually entered Oregon, it started to rain quite a bit harder.

Our destination for today is Winnemucca, Nevada, an overnight stop on Interstate 80, but we had to cut across the southeast corner of Oregon to get to Nevada.  This is a high desert area and very remote and desolate.  The rain continued on and off with some very heavy rain as we entered Nevada.  As we drove south through Nevada we could see some snow dusting the mountains to the east and west.

We finally reached Winnemucca and decided to have an early dinner before we checked into our hotel.  Cathy and Heather use Winnemucca as an overnight stop when they drive up to McCall and had recommended a Mexican restaurant called Chihuahuas’s Cantina and Grill.  We found it and had a very good dinner, our first real taste of Mexican food since leaving home.

From there it was off to the hotel and we were checked in before 5:30.  We were staying at a Holiday Inn Express and to our surprise, it had a casino, I guess almost every hotel in Nevada has a casino.  Not being able to resist, we decided to try our luck in the casino for a little while, not expecting much as these kinds of very small hotel casinos really don’t pay very well.  We ended up being surprised as I broke even and Val won a jackpot of just over $400, a very successful night.

Val felt much better after winning $432 at the Holiday Inn Express.
After the casino it was back to our room where I caught up on the blog and we spent the rest of the evening relaxing.  Tomorrow we are taking the short drive to Reno where we will spend a couple of days. Our stop in Reno is meant for us to do a little more serious gambling than here at the Holiday Inn Express, but I doubt we’ll do as well as we did tonight.

Sunday, September 29 - Winnemucca to Reno, NV

It was cold and damp when we woke up as it had rained during the night.  We slept in a little as it was less than a three hour drive to Reno, our destination for the night.  Val was feeling much better this morning, but still is coughing quite a bit.  We hit the road around 11:00 and headed west on I-80 towards Reno.

We could see snow in the mountains to the south of I-80 and it was quite pretty.  As we gained in elevation there was actually snow along the highway; not much, but snow nonetheless.

We arrived in Reno around 2:00 and found one of the main roads through the downtown was closed for the annual week-long Street Vibrations motorcycle event.  That surprised me because I had checked before we left and didn’t realize it didn’t end until this Sunday evening.

Oh well, it didn’t really affect us as our hotel was not on the main street.  We usually stay at Harrah’s Reno, but this time we decided to stay at the Silver Legacy Hotel and Casino.  A couple of years ago we had done a little gambling there and liked the casino and they have started offering us a two night comped stay so we decided to take them up on it.

The Silver Legacy is part of three hotels / casinos linked together called The Row.  The Silver Legacy is in the middle with Circus Circus at one end, and the El Dorado at the other.  It was quite cold in Reno when we arrived, but the valet was in the parking garage and after leaving the car we were quickly inside and checked in.  We were given a newly refurbished room on the 30th floor with a great view of the mountains to the west and north.  The room was very nice and we were very pleased with our choice.

The view west from our room.
After getting settled in, the first order of business was to get something to eat as we hadn’t eaten lunch yet.  We chose to eat at the café in the hotel and the food was good, but not great; kind of typical of a hotel coffee shop.  After eating we did some gambling before returning to the room for a little late afternoon relaxing.

After our rest time, we returned to the casino and did some more gambling.  We do like the casino here much more than Harrah’s, where we usually stay.  As the evening wore on we realized that we had eaten such a late lunch that we weren’t really hungry for dinner, but knew we had to eat something.  We chose to be decadent and have desert for dinner and we both had a hot fudge sundae; we felt a little guilty, but we are are on vacation.

We finished our desert and decided to call it a night.  Tomorrow will be a free day in Reno so we don’t have to get up early and can do what we want.

Monday, September 30 - Reno

Today is the last day of September and the last day of our vacation before driving home tomorrow.  We lounged around the room relaxing until around 11:00 and then headed back down to the café to have some breakfast.  Our breakfasts were pretty good and afterwards we walked over to the Circus Circus to check out their casino.

Everything is attached so you don’t even have to go outside to go from casino to casino.  The buildings are built over the roadways and you wouldn’t even realize you were in a different building if you didn't know the layout.  Circus Circus is suited for people with kids as there is a huge arcade area where the kids can play while the adults are in the casino where the kids aren’t allowed.  The Circus Circus casino was much quieter than the Silver Legacy, but we did find some slot machines to play with moderate success, but soon made our way back to the Silver Legacy.  Next we decided to go the other way and visit the El Dorado.  The El Dorado was busier and more lively than Circus Circus so we stayed for a while, once again with moderate success.  I say moderate, but the truth is, Val continues to do well and I continue not to, so I say that averages out to moderate. 😉

We went back to the Silver Legacy and decided to have an early dinner at a Mexican restaurant we had spotted.  When we got there it wasn’t open and a security guard told us it should be open, but wasn’t.  I called the hotel and they told me it wasn’t open on Monday’s so that was that.  The only other dining option we considered was a Ruth’s Chris Steak House, but we really didn’t feel like that heavy of a meal so we found ourselves back at the café where we had another OK, but nothing special meal.

After our dinner, we did the final gambling of our stay in Reno and I managed to have a couple of big wins to salvage my gambling for the trip.  Val did quite well and ended up with almost all of her money she started out with.  I returned with much less, but enough so I didn’t feel too bad about losing.  We went to bed early as we wanted to get a good start in the morning.

We really enjoyed our stay at the Silver Legacy.  The hotel is very nice and we liked the way they kept the hotel area separated from the casino.  We liked the casino here especially since there are three casinos joined together for more variety.  Also having the three casinos joined gives you lots of eating options although you’d never know it from how we ate, but we are at the end of a long road trip and are just tired of eating out.

Monday, October 1 - The Drive Home

We had a six and a half hour drive home today so we intended to get an early start today, but it didn’t go as planned.  We overslept a bit, but did get on the road around 9:30.  The drive over the Sierras on I-80 went by quickly, but we did make one stop to get gas and since we hadn’t eaten anything before we left, we picked up some pastries to satisfy our hunger.

When we got on I-5 in Sacramento, we found we were sharing the road with many, many big trucks.  There wasn’t much other traffic, but the proliferation of semis continued all the way down I-5.  We made pretty good time, but we stopped several times to stretch our legs and take care of other things which delayed us a little.  😁

We finally reached the turn off for highway 41 that would take us the rest of the way home, but we hadn’t had anything to eat so we stopped for a late lunch / early dinner and that delayed us further.  We finally got home just after 5:00 and found everything just as we had left it.  We unpacked a few things we needed, but left everything else for tomorrow as we were tired and just wanted to relax.  It had been a great trip and we had really enjoyed it, but after being on the road for 32 days it felt good to be home.

Trains and Grizzly Bears, A Canadian Roadtrip - Cathy and Heather's Day 2

Friday, September 27

I was up at 7:30 today as I wanted to go with Cathy on her morning dog walk.  It was very foggy and a little cold, but it wasn’t raining, so off we went.  They really live in a great area and we had a wonderful walk.  We walked about four miles and went through woods and by bogs and streams and ponds which all looked ethereal in the morning fog.  The fall color is coming on strong so that added to the beauty.

Even though it was foggy and overcast, it gave it kind of an ethereal look/

Heather and Cathy's two dogs.  I remember that one is named Sookie, but my bad memory for names extends to dogs as well as humans and I don't remember the other one's name.  It is the hunting season so hence, the orange vests.

This was a spider's web with multi sized droplets which looked very interesting.

When we returned Val was just getting up and wasn’t feeling well at all.  The plan today was to go north of McCall and visit Hazard Lake, but it looked like Val wouldn’t make it.  After a bit of discussion, we decided that we would go ahead with our plans, but Val would stay at the house and spend the day resting.  We hated to go without Val, but she insisted.

We all had a late breakfast and chatted for a while and then it was time to get going.  We reluctantly said farewell to Val and hit the road.  It was still foggy and overcast, but as we drove north, we started to see blue sky and by the time we reached the forest road to Hazard Lake, the sun was out.  The temperature was still in the 40’s, but it was still comfortable.

The drive up the forest road was very scenic with the fall color and the variety of plants growing amongst the pines.  There were some shrubs that had turned a bright red rust color and they were spectacular.  We made a stop at an overlook and then continued on to a lower lake called Goose Lake.  It was very low as it is fed by the snow melt and by this time of the year, that had ended.  We wandered around a bit and took some pictures and then continued our trek up mountain.

The view looking back down the valley.  There was a prescribed burn going on that the smoke was coming from.
That is Goose Lake off in the distance.  The lake is all the way up to where I'm taking this picture in the spring and early summer, but the snow melt has ended and as we saw in the Canadian Rockies, the lake recedes as winter approaches.

Heather and Cathy.
We made a couple more stops at some scenic spots before arriving at Hazard Lake which was absolutely beautiful.  The lake and the surrounding marsh lands were very scenic and with the blue skies and puffy white clouds it was very photogenic.  We took lots of pictures and hung around for a while before starting back down.

As you can see by the number of pictures I took, I found Hazard Lake very picturesque.

We made some more stops on the way down to take pictures of the colorful foliage and at one spot, a small lake in the canyon below.  This was a wonderful drive and we all felt bad that Val had missed it, but it was more important for her to rest and start feeling better.

As we headed back to the house, we stopped to get Val some tea and then it was home for some relaxing.  When we got back, Val said she was feeling a little better and had spent the day sleeping and resting.  Our day trip had taken much longer than expected and we had missed lunch so we decided to just have some snacks to tide us over until dinner.  I also wanted to take some pictures of Heather and Cathy’s house, and of them, so we did that for a while and then spent rest of the afternoon chatting and relaxing.

Heather and Cathy on the front steps of their home.
And on the rear deck.
It was a beautiful view from their deck.

Val joined Heather and Cathy in front of the fireplace.
And finally it was Val's and my turn for a picture.
The original intent for dinner was barbecuing some ribs, but that would take quite a while and we realized it would be a very late dinner so we shelved that idea and decided to get a pizza instead.  There was a very good pizza place in McCall that Heather and Cathy liked so Cathy and I went there to pick one up and some salads for dinner.

The pizza was the kind that you bake at home so that was done and we decided to watch a movie while we ate which worked out nicely.  After the movie we spent some time talking, but Val was getting tired so we called it an early night.  Tomorrow morning Val and I leave for Winnemucca, our next stop on our way home.

Trains and Grizzly Bears, A Canadian Roadtrip - Cathy and Heather's Day 1

Thursday, September 26

We slept in today, but not intentionally.  I woke up and looked at the clock and was surprised to see it was already 8:30, I guess our internal clocks hadn’t made the switch to mountain time.  It was a leisurely morning as we were all on our own for breakfast and wandered in at various times.  Cathy, who is an early riser, was out walking the dogs and I had hoped to join her, but didn’t get up in time.

After we were all fed and walked, we chatted for a while and then Heather and Cathy showed us around the area south of McCall.  I can’t really name all the places we saw, but they were all really picturesque and very scenic, they even arranged for us to be in the middle of a cattle drive.

We stopped along the road to take some pictures and got a bit of a surprise.

We had stopped to take some pictures when we heard some cattle in the distance and Cathy called out for us to get in the car as she had to move it.  Sure enough, in a cloud of dust here came a herd of cattle down the road being overseen by a few cowboys and their dogs.  They completely filled the road and we shot some pictures as best we could from the car.  I asked Cathy if she arranged a cattle drive for all of her guests and she said we were just lucky.

We heard them before we saw them, but then around the bend we could see dust and cattle and we found ourselves in the middle of a cattle drive.

We continued our drive stopping at places that caught our interest including among other things, a ski resort, a lake, some hot springs and even an old barn and ranch house owned by someone they knew.  Not only did we see a lot of interesting places, but our drive was over the back roads that provided beautiful scenery in themselves.

Cathy and Val

It was well past lunchtime and we were all hungry so we decided to stop somewhere for lunch.  Heather and Cathy suggested a place they liked in the town of Donnelly called Cougar Dave’s.  We were all for it as so far, everywhere we had gone was great.  They were right as the food was good and we had an excellent lunch.  After lunch it was back to the house where we spent the afternoon relaxing.

We wanted to take Heather and Cathy out to dinner so tonight was the night.  We asked them to choose a place they liked and they chose the Cutwater Restaurant at the Shore Lodge in McCall.  We had an excellent dinner and everyone really enjoyed their meal.  After dinner, it was back to the house for a delicious dessert of banana chocolate chip bread and coconut cream pie, quite a dessert extravaganza.

One thing I didn’t mention today was that Val woke up with a sore throat and it looks like her cold has returned.  She was a real trooper today and went through the whole day without complaint, but she had run out of gas and called it an early night.  Cathy sent her to bed with a hot toddy which made her throat and cough better so we’ll see what happens tomorrow.