Thursday, August 27, 2009

America On Guard for Thee

A dangerous looking pair.
I may at some time have mentioned that the Canadian U.S. border lies eight miles directly south of where I live, on what they call the Coast Meridian Road. It’s about a half hour drive for us so we often opt for a day in the “States.” There’s a lot to do in beautiful Washington State and Bellingham is only fifty miles down the highway. We like to go shopping, eat a nice lunch or dinner by the sea, or even just to fill up with good American gasoline that is always cheaper than ours. (Although we have the most available oil of any country in the world right now—but go figure.)

Even though that crossing directly south of us is the easiest to access we don’t usual take it. It’s the major entry point on Interstate 5 between the two countries and the line-ups can be horrendous. So the other day—a beautiful end-of-August day—we decided we wanted to look at the shops in Bellingham’s Bellis Fair Mall and have an excellent seafood dinner down by Bellingham Bay. We started out early to drive inland to the crossing at Lyndon, Washington which takes us through lovely farming country on either side of the border—a much less crowded route.

It was a Monday and surprisingly the line-ups were huge even way out there in the “sticks?” So it took us over an hour to get up to one of the Inspection Stations. Our passports were ready, we answered the usual questions about where were we off to and how long would we be in the States. But, imagine our surprise and dismay when the officer said, “I want you to drive into the bay over there for an inspection. Someone will go through your car so it will take some time. You’ll get your passports back when you’re finished.”

Now we are seniors and our faces will attest to over three score and some years of living and our fair share of sunshine. My husband is greying and I have silver white hair. We really don’t look all that suspicious nor do we look like we could be a threat to anyone. But those border guards are big and brawny and they carry guns, so you don’t really want to mess with them. And the sign says that if you disobey there can be a $250,000 fine and up to ten years in jail. We’re not even sure we have ten years left.

We meekly pulled into the bay and with some trepidation, entered the building. Again there are line-ups so the wait until an inspector came to talk to us took quite awhile. I imagine that, if you are carrying anything suspicious in your car, you would begin to sweat. In fact, the fellow in front of us looked very worried and when questioned admitted he had been arrested before. “Right here at the border,” he confessed.

I’m not the most patient person in the world and am apt to voice my feelings in a fairly loud voice about supposed injustices. Looking at the counter and watching some Hispanic people being fingered printed, I said to my husband in a loud whisper, “I’m absolutely NOT going to be fingered printed.”

Pointing again at the signs about jail, he motioned me to “hush up.” I know the look.

Finally our turn came. The inspector was Hispanic himself and gave me a reassuring smile. “This is just a random check, ma’m,” he comforted me. “You don’t have to worry. Have either of you ever been arrested?” Fortunately we never have been; we weren’t carrying guns or marijuana—neither of us has ever smoked a joint actually—and we didn’t even have any liquor in the trunk. We were totally clean. I don’t know if they were disappointed or not. After a thorough search of the car, they handed back our passports and we were soon again on our way south. Still time for window shopping and an early dinner at Bellingham’s beautiful harbour.

But I can tell all you American’s out there. Those border guards are doing their job. You are definitely safe from an invasion by Canadian senior citizens.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Those Lazy Hazy Crazy Days of Summer

Hi there followers:

I owe you an apology. I have been exceedingly lazy these last few weeks during our British Columbia heat wave and, on top of that, somehow I got myself involved with Authonomy.

Authonomy is, as those writer's among you know, the website put up by Harper Collins for new writers to showcase their work. For some time now, I've heard a few of my colleagues on Facebook talking about it and finally gave in to it's allure. So I have seven chapters of my book, "The Huguenot's Destiny" posted there now and, in order to keep it moving up the chart, you have to keep reading and commenting on other writer's books constantly. Then they return the favour. As one of my very observant and intelligent F/B friends tells us, it's mostly about "patting each other on the back."

Even though I'm beginning to understand the game, I did have a couple of very nice comments which I'm taking at face value. One, because he is a member of the modern-day Huguenot Church and he wants to read the entire book. (Which is not a religious book, by the way.) Another was by a New York magazine editor and his comments sounded genuine enough.

Unfortunately, no sooner did my book start climbing up the ladder, than the whole website went down. I also have a habit of "killing" most of the forum threads I have ventured on to. I really should put up a warning label.

So that's mostly what I've been up to for the past couple of weeks. But I will be carrying on with my travelblog on my trip to the Okanagan and particularly my visit to my old hometown of Summerland in a couple of weeks. Please stay tuned. And in the meantime, welcome to summer in my small garden.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Vernon - Center of Northern Okanagan Valley

British Columbia is burning. There are 500 fires throughout the province at the moment. It has been so hot and dry everywhere for two months now, with record setting temperatures in many areas including Vancouver.

Sadly in spite of the pleas of the RCMP, we still see many places where people have unthinkingly thrown their cigarette butts out of the window of their car. One can’t help but wonder if their consciences will bother them when they see the weeping families standing in front of their burnt out homes.
Link: Terrace Mountain fire forces 2,500 to flee

The Okanagan Valley is one of the places where there is still a large, uncontrolled fire burning on the north west side of the lake, but nevertheless, it’s a beautiful spot to visit; so this week I’ll continue with my travel blog of the north Okanagan.

Vernon is the largest city in the North Okanagan Regional District and is the northern entry point for the valley. Coming from eastern Canada via the Trans Canada Highway #3, one turns south on Highway 97 at either Sicamous or Salmon Arm. Ideally nestled between the beautiful Swan, Kalamalka, and Okanagan lakes it is the oldest community in British Columbia's interior.
Our sightseeing in Vernon began with a step back in time to the late 1800s at the historic O'Keefe Ranch, founded in 1867 by Cornelius O'Keefe when he and his partner, Thomas Greenhow drove cattle from Oregon to the north end of Okanagan Lake.

At that time, huge cattle ranches occupied the valley, and ranch headquarters were self-contained settlements. By the turn of the century, O'Keefe and his partner owned 20,000 acres of prime land, and were driving cattle north to sell to the hungry miners in the gold fields. The property is still a working ranch and you can spend a good afternoon touring the outbuilding as well as the beautifully preserved Victorian home. It’s a great spot where kids and adults alike can experience the history and adventure of pioneer days. I’ve included a couple of pictures.
(If you go: The ranch is open daily 9am to 5 pm, May through Thanksgiving.)

The other interesting spot in Vernon we took time to visit on this trip was Okanagan Opal Inc., which is the first company in Canada to produce and market "Canadian" precious opal gemstones. You can visit the shop to see a wonderful variety of opal gemstones, available in many different settings, styles and colours or you can also arrange a trip to their actual mine site to dig your own opals!
View Dig Your Own Opals for more information.

(Next time we head south to the Central Okanagan Valley where we visit my old hometown of Summerland)

Inside of O'Keefe Ranch General Store

Always did like a cowboy

Library of beautiful O'Keefe Victoria home