It’s been hard for me to get back into writing – after we left the ranch I was in a bit of a daze – in let-down mode – like a hangover. I just haven’t been inspired. It’s hard to leave a place you know you may never top. I have to admit it occurred to me we could just ride out our sabbatical there and skip the rest of our planned explorations. It was tempting too – we were all content and peaceful there.
Not much could have dragged me away from the ranch – especially a day earlier than planned, but we received word that some friends were going to be in Vancouver for only one night, and figured it was as good as time as any to cut the cord – perhaps it was necessary to have some incentive. As late afternoon approached, we said our goodbyes to the horses, gave and received hugs, and I spent a few minutes breathing in the energy of my surroundings one last time – then off we went.
We didn’t have any particular place we wanted to explore between the ranch and Vancouver, but because it was 9-10 hours of driving time, we knew it would take us 3 days. We decided to get as far as we could the first night, and then stop in Whistler the 2nd night. We drove through some historic areas, and along some beautiful lakes but once it got dark we had to find a place to stop – it’s just not the same driving the rig at night, especially on dark, winding roads with the threat of wildlife jumping out. We pulled into the Lac La Hache Provincial Park; it was pitch black because the lovely place has many trees, but that made it challenging to find and back into a spot. In the morning we had to get on the road right away, but it would have been a great place to stay – lots of privacy and very spacious.
It was a challenging and scenic drive to Whistler. Chatting with other travelers at the campground, I realized once again how we seem to choose adventurous routes that others shy away from. After “the hill” to Bella Coola, Raj simply said the steep grades and never-ending curves to Whistler were “fun” but others avoid the route altogether. Whistler was a nice place but I was grouchy and not easily impressed; ski towns all start to look the same to me, and as I’ve already confessed, I was anxious to get to the open ocean. Our campground, which was way up on a hill, had amazing mountain views, but overall I just wasn’t feeling it.
The drive from Whistler to Vancouver may have been the most scenic two hours yet, as gigantic snow-topped mountains loomed over the Strait of Georgia’s gloriously blue waters. Finally, I had reached the sea! My heart leapt as sailboats keeled and the sun twinkled on the surface. Not only was my need for the water suddenly satisfied, we re-entered civilization! Seriously, we had been off the grid, albeit to varying degrees, for over a month, and here we were driving into a metropolitan city! It was a sudden change of pace for Raj driving the RV too – he hadn’t been on a major interstate in all of Canada!
The RV Park we hoped to stay in was booked, which was disappointing because, despite it’s awful reviews, its location would have allowed us to ride our bikes over the bridge to Stanley Park. Instead, we found a place with decent reviews, but essentially in a nearby suburb 25 minutes from town. After settling in, we managed to get the kids and us ready for a night out in the city with our friends! Traffic was horrendous – we were out of practice and to be honest, didn’t expect such congestion in a city like Vancouver – we’re from Atlanta after-all!
We had a marvelous sushi dinner with our friends, Ken and Kathy, who were embarking on their own Rocky Mountain Adventure. It was so nice to be face to face and have adult conversation. They were wonderful, patient and silly with the kids too and kept them both quite entertained. It’s not always easy going to restaurants; it seems one kid or the other manages to give me a new gray hair each time we try, but it was a relatively stress-free experience. As soon as we got in the Jeep to drive home, Nina said “I”m sure going to miss them.” Then both kids actually fell asleep and we were able to transfer them to bed. I call that a perfect evening!
We didn’t have any agenda in Vancouver (except eating sushi and we’d already done that!). We wanted to get some “princess” shoes for Nina so found a little mall and went on a hunt to satisfy a 3 year old with a vision (they needed to be purple and sparkly). A trip like that obviously deserves a break for coffee and donuts, so we hopped into Tim Hortons, which is Canada’s version of Dunkin Donuts. London was introduced to donut holes and seemed to really appreciate the double fisting concept!
Our favorite couple of hours in Vancouver were spent at Stanley Park, and I wished we’d had longer to explore that 1000+ acre urban oasis. Of course they had playgrounds, but they also had an impressive miniature train ride, a puppet show, and a splash pond for the kids. The kids had an absolute blast. The train ride was a bit trippy, but it took us through a lovely forest and the kids didn’t stop grinning the entire time. The puppet show was silly but it was so fun to see the kids interacting with the show and London cheering and clapping (even at inopportune times). My favorite was the splash pond – even though we weren’t prepared for it; the kids stripped down, Nina took London’s hesitant hand, and off they went giggling and sloshing.
The entire park is stunning – right on the harbour, huge trees, totem poles, forested trails, restaurants, gardens, an aquarium… it goes on and on. How in the world we managed to drive there without our bikes is still beyond me. We were so unprepared and I’m still frustrated with us for our poor planning. The other downer is we received a parking ticket, despite paying to park and leaving the pay-slip on the dash as instructed. We think because we have a temporary tag on the Jeep still, the parking attendant was confused, but we are still debating how to handle the situation. I wish we had been able to find a parking official while still there to show our receipt.
In any case, we enjoyed Vancouver – it’s an impressive and beautiful city with much to offer. However, city exploration while RVing is difficult, as dogs have to remain behind for long stretches, the campgrounds are tight, often far from the center of things, and leave a lot to be desired, and the hustle and bustle is draining after the slower pace we’ve become accustomed to on the road. We decided to book our ferry crossing for Vancouver Island and spend our last week in Canada exploring slightly less crowded surroundings and lots and lots of beaches!
Lac La Hache Provincial Park – very nice and forested – lots of room and privacy. We would like to have stayed longer but were just passing through. Unfortunately it was dry camping and their dump station was out of order.
Whistler RV Park and Campground – views from campground are very nice. Very slow check-in for some reason. About 15 minutes from town.
Vancouver – Burnaby Cariboo RV Park – expensive but nice, especially for a city park. The hedges offered lots of privacy, but like other reviewers have said, the spaces are a tad tight. We were lucky with an end and had more room than most. Playground just so-so, but facilities looked really nice even though we didn’t need them. I really enjoyed the neighboring trail and used it often to walk the dogs, as they don’t have their own dog area, but it was very convenient.