Understanding Mexico

I would like to start a series on Understanding Mexico. They seem to have some serious problems down there. Not sure how far I will get with this as I am not knowledgable about Mexican history, their culture or language. However we do spend winters there and I would like to learn and share more about this beautiful place and people. I am part way through Paul Theroux’s On the Plain of Snakes, A Mexican Journey, and will be using it as my road guide.

The socio-economic problems in Mexico are primarily due to political ones. According to Paul, Mexico was bankrupted in the 19th century due to three major conflicts:

With a bankrupt nation, the only way to sustain political and security institutions is through corruption ie. instituting an inbuilt bribe tax. What this means is that in Mexico, you cannot distinguish the good guys from the bad ones. For example the police are paid very low wages in Mexico and are known for “shaking people down” – namely insisting on a cash bribe or you will be locked or roughed up. Hence police are not there to serve and protect as we know it in Canada, but rather to line their own pockets to pay their bills. The other side of this is that if you have or will be committing a crime, you can pay the police to look the other way. Frightening, isn’t it?

The next part of the equation is that America criminalizes drugs like cocaine, heroin, even marijuana. This creates a huge market for illicit drugs that Mexico is happy to supply. Drugs flow north, money and guns flow south. The drug gangs referred to as “the Mafia” by locals control this trade and are not willing to give it up without a fight. Hence the extreme violence between the drug cartels and anyone else caught in the middle.

Bring in the military to a region and the killing rate goes up. This is exactly what happened in Ciudad Juarez across the border from El Paso, TX a few years back. The military are expert killers and not accountable for who they target. In fact, Theroux says the drug cartels hire ex-military staff precisely because they are such good killers.

So what is good about Mexico other than the weather? Why even risk going there you might ask? It is because the average Mexican you meet, faced with all this institutional dysfunction, becomes very self-reliant, family focussed, more religious, entrepreneurial and charitable, willing to help others, since they can’t count on the police or government for assistance. “Once the dust of Mexico settles on your heart, you can’t go home.”

To be continued. Saludos, Dave

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The Demise of Ioco Refinery

Ioco Refinery circa 1923

Ioco (Imperial Oil Co) Refinery was built in 1914 in Port Moody (Vancouver), BC and closed in 1995 when it was converted to a petroleum products terminal. I worked there as a chemical process engineer from 1974-78. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

The refinery converted 40,000 bbl/day of light Alberta crude oil to a wide range of products including gasoline and diesel fuels, aviation and marine fuels, home heating oil, propane, butane, bunker fuels, asphalt and specialty chemicals like xylene. Crude oil arrived by pipeline; products were shipped out via pipeline, truck, rail, ship and barge. As such it was a small medium complex refinery. The diagram below is indicative of this facility. We did not produce petroleum coke or hydrogen.

I was contact engineer for the crude distillation unit and then subsequently for the amine treating and Claus sulfur plant. As contact engineer I was responsible for monitoring and reporting on the operation, dialoguing with the operators and equipment techs on issues as well as for special projects such as optimizing the thickness of insulation to install on heated oil tanks, designing pumping and product blender installations, etc.

A good part of the job was problem solving. We were taught that “A problem is a deviation with a cause unknown.” We were given lot’s of training on how to solve problems. Example problems: “We are flaring off too much propane this week because the capacity of the merox treater is down;” or, “The output of the sulphur plant is low because we can’t control the air to H2S ratio accurately.” Fix it! You get the idea.

I remember my first day, entering the control room glittering with controls and screens, slide rule and text book in hand, thinking I was going to change the world. The operator looks up at me and scowls to himself, “not another green engineer that I’ll have to break in.” Well I quickly learned to be humble, ask questions, build trust and gradually the operators would open up and tell you what the problem was from their perspective e.g, “I can’t increase the flow to the crude unit without the safety valve blowing on the distillate recycle tank. Maybe the safety valve pressure setting should be checked.”

Ioco Terminal Today

Once the Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers union went on strike. I think it was over the imposition of wage and price controls by Pierre Trudeau. Well we engineers and management staff took over operating the refinery. I remember working 7 x 12 hour midnight shifts in a row. We would walk around the units checking the colour of a gauze indicator pinned to our jacket. If it started to turn brown you were in danger of being gassed to death by H2S. I got so tired and stressed out I had an anxiety attack and quit smoking for awhile. Probably a good thing, lol.

The best thing about working at Ioco was the people. I made so many friends there. We skied together, golfed, fished and partied. We had fun and felt a real calling to working there. Imperial Oil was and probably still is an extremely well managed company. However it is a tough company not unwilling to make changes which affect people. After 4 years at the refinery, I moved to their Product Distribution Division for another 4 years.

About the demise of Ioco Refinery. Remember that pipeline, the Trans Mountain that brought crude oil from Alberta? Well turns out it can also bring refined product. In 1976, Imperial built a brand new state of the art refinery in Edmonton. The Strathcona refinery was huge, first 120,000 bbl/day, then 165,000 bbl/day and now 187,000 bbl/day capacity. In 1995, Imperial Oil decided to shut down the relatively inefficient Ioco Refinery and ship refined petroleum products by pipeline from Strathcona and some by rail to Vancouver from Alberta. The cost of the landed product is less this way. So Ioco Refinery was permanently shutdown and dismantled at the end of 1995. A sad day for the hundreds of skilled employees that worked there for sure.

Two other Vancouver refineries were shut down leaving only one in operation (Parkland Fuels Corp.) Fast forward to 2019. The population of British Columbia has grown immensely, particularly the Lower Mainland. There is now a shortage of refined product which is filled by imports from Washington State. There is an industry perceived need for a new refinery to be built in Vancouver but the political, social and environmental forces arrayed against this are huge. Meanwhile, massive traffic jams, slow commutes, unaffordable housing and high priced fuels are common here.

I am all for a greener future but we have to stop driving our fossil fueled cars, make better use of solar and electricity to heat our homes, take public transit more often, stop flying, cruising etc. Thanks for all those memories Ioco friends, you are not forgotten. In the moment, what do you think about the oil industry, pipelines and how we can ensure a greener future?

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YVR Visit


We disembarked the Westerdam efficiently. However Dave had now picked up the head cold that Marie and everyone else on board got. We picked up our rental and were soon on our way to North Van in some light showers. We have been to YVR (Vancouver) several times before and Dave had lived here after university graduation, many years ago.
1053 Lillooet Rd

Finding our way to 1053 Lillooet Rd, Dave’s old residence, was tricky due to all the new condo development. There is a Holiday Inn where the Coachhouse Inn used to be. Took a few photos and chatted with the people across the street, who incredibly had also lived in 1053. They said this place would fetch 450k now more than 10 times what it was worth back in the early 80s. It’s a small 2 bedroom condo.

St. Paul’s Church

We then made our way to North Van St Paul’s Church to say hi to Fr Tap Kurideepan. OMI. It is a heritage Squamish First Nation mission church that has great spirit and is going strong. ‎We drove across the Lions Gate Bridge and found the Oblates residence called Pandosy Place in the heart of Kitsilano. Fr Robert Smith, OMI greeted us warmly as did Fr Jim Bleakley, OMI. It was Mary Immaculate’s Feast Day to honour her birthday. We were treated to a Liturgy of the Word followed by a social and dinner. Pandosy Place is named after Fr. Charles Pandosy, OMI who achieved folk hero status in B.C. after a life of itinerant ministry to first nations and settlers in the Okanagan Valley in the 19th century.

Geese heading for First Beach
Dave also live here in Pt Grey briefly

The next day we hit the road again and visited Dave’s old Imperial Oil work haunts in ‎Burnaby and Port Moody. We drove by the Trans Mountain Pipeline Terminal. Judging by the construction going on there, they are expecting imminent approval despite the latest court challenges.

Dave spent time automating this terminal with Norm Tatlow
Norm and I played a lot of golf here after work
Ioco Refinery is now a storage and distribution terminal
Dave worked here when the refinery was on the top of the hill

We drove up past Ioco to Belcara Park on Burrard Inlet and watched people fishing for crab. It was so peaceful and mystical. Returning home we opted to go out for dinner on W 4th Ave to avoid contaminating the 7 elderly Oblates living ‎in beautiful Pandosy Place.

The next day was sunny so we drove up to Whistler along the beautiful Howe Sound. The highway has been twinned and greatly improved since the mid 1970s when Dave used to drive it in winter. We walked around Blackcomb and Whistler vi‎llages marveling at the world class resort this has now become. Visited the Olympic Centre and then headed home. Dave was still suffering from the head cold he got on the cruise. Marie was finally better.

Dave rented this ski chalet way back in 1976-77

Our last day we headed for Granville Island on foot, walking the Greenway path right next to our residence. Dave remembers when they opened this giant  marketplace in 1979.  It consists of shops, restaurants, a market and nautical service outlets all crammed into what is a former industrial site. State of the art back then it still looks pretty good now but is very crowded with tourists all the time. We took a longer walk back via Kitsilano Beach, our holiday here now almost over.

We are ready to go home sweet home. After Oraison (group silent prayer) we had a social hour with Frs. Robert, John, Gilbert, Vince, Oliver, Jules, Andrew and 2 others. It was great followed by dinner and laughs. We felt so welcome and honoured by our Oblate hosts, getting to participate in their daily prayerful lives. 

Fr. Robert Smith, OMI accepts our gift with a smile

The next morning we said our goodbyes and had an uneventful ‎trip home. Our colds finally gone, thanks be to God.

Jericho Beach

It was a visit down memory lane – some good, some not so good. Thanks for reading.

I will be following this post up with one about the demise of Ioco Refinery and related issues.

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Alaskan Cruise – By the Numbers

(You will very likely be happy to know this is the last posting about this cruise.)

Our last sea day on board the Westerdam was enjoyable. They offered an Alaskan king crab with salmon lunch for previous Holland America (HAL) cruisers which was excellent. They gave us nice ceramic HAL coasters as gifts. Then we did a 5k walk for cancer research (10 laps on the Promenade deck). The captain gave an interesting talk about bridge controls and ship features. We learned that the Westerdam cost $450M to build 15 years ago and weighs 86,000 metric tons.  It has 2×13,500 HP azipod stern thrusters which can rotate 360 deg, 6 bow thrusters to help in docking and 2x25x8ft stabilizers which act like wings to level the ship. On our way out we saw the moment on TV when Torontonian Bianca Andreesku beat Serena Williams in the 2019 US Open Tennis final. Yeh Canada!

Overall we enjoyed this Holland America (HAL) cruise but perhaps not as much as past Oceania and Celebrity Cruises we have taken. Holland America is a mass market cruise line that draws cruisers who tend to prefer the more traditional ways of cruising. There is less buzz. Founded in 1873, Holland America has a long history and a steady following. Opinions abound that ever since Carnival Corp’s takeover of HAL years ago, quality seems to be sliding in an effort to cut costs.

Keeping everyone healthy onboard is always a big challenge. We noticed there was no enforcement of hand sanitizer use upon entering the Lido/MDR nor was there a personal health disclosure form that each passenger had to fill in upon boarding. Both these practices were in force last year on Oceania Cruises on our Baltic cruise. We appreciated that there was a Catholic priest onboard offering daily Mass. This a common practice on HAL and very rare elsewhere.

People were calm and polite onboard. Staff were extremely friendly, polite and well trained. They really try hard to please and seemed generally happy working for HAL. The itinerary and weather were generally good. The food in the Lido (buffet restaurant) was disappointing. Eg, all types of fish tasted the same and was overcooked, side plate salad appetizers looked rather unappetizing. Food in the dining room was good to excellent, arriving just a bit cool sometimes.  The Westerdam ship was adequate and very clean but at 15 years old, is showing it’s age in our view. We absolutely loved our aft balcony cabin which gave us a 270 deg view. Highly recommend aft balconies!  Pool and hot tub were good as no one else was usually there.

By the numbers:

  • 7 nights Anchorage to Vancouver
  • 3 ports, 3 sea days
  • 2600 kms, 125,000 USG fuel (bunker and diesel)
  • passengers 1900, crew 783
  • best‎ day – Glacier National Park (10/10)
  • worst day – pulling out of Seward in the rain
  • respiratory illness alert while we were on board (many were coughing with some fever for a day or 2)
  • excursions our group had arranged were average to good, say 6 on average (no bears, did see lot’s of salmon, eagles and a few whales, best was to Meldenhall Glacier and falls)
  • really enjoyed the train ride from Anchorage to Seward
  • Anchorage itself, so-so due to the location of our hotel and high prices
  • the trolley bus tour we took there was fun and excellent
  • the drive to Mt Aleeska resort and tram ride were excellent
  • this was more like a river cruise than an ocean one as you are close to shore which is probably one reason Alaska cruises are extremely popular
  • best moment of the whole trip was when the sun came out in Glacier National Park‎, totally unexpectedly
  • even the captain Vincent Smit remarked how lucky we were that day!

Ratings (Marie’s – Dave’s)(out of 10)

  • ship 6 – 6.5
  • itinerary 6 – 7
  • food 7 – 7.5
  • shops/activities 7 – 6
  • service 9 – 9
  • cabin 8 – 9
  • overall‎ 6 – 7 (Our previous HAL cruise on the Zuiderdam we rated 8)

Would we cruise on HAL again (this was our 2nd)?

– not likely, but never say never

Would we cruise Alaska again?

– not likely (too much like NFLD for Marie and like YVR for Dave) plus, we prefer warmer climate cruises.

Happy Trails to You

Thanks again for travelling with us. If you haven’t cruised yet, perhaps you would like it too.

Hope to see you out and about soon.

Marie and Dave XOX

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Alaskan Cruise – Juneau and Ketchican

Juneau
Mike is back

We awoke on day 4 docked next to downtown Juneau, the capital (pop 33,000). You cannot drive to get here – only boat or planes connect it to the outside world. Tall hills tower above us as the Celebrity Eclipse parallel parked in behind us.‎ The Norwegian Jewel was also in. Sharron called to say she was finally good to go!

We all walked off to the pleasant downtown and caught our taxi right beside a large fish processing plant. We drove to the beautiful Mendenhall Glacier Park. We walked on the trail for about 20 minutes to reach the base a wonderful waterfall.  ‎The huge tidal glacier was another couple of km away and not accessible. Many photos later we turned back. Dave walked by a stream teaming with large salmon. Bears were close by but we did not see any. Our cab picked us up and we were back in town, wandering around the many shops and boutiques. The Crystal Symphony ship was now in too. Another great outing in the warm Alaskan sunshine.

Everyone is back

Our taxi driver was originally from El Salvador. He explained that‎ Alaska puts aside royalties from petroleum and mining. Every Alaskan receives an annual dividend payment from this investment. An incentive to come and live here for sure. Ex Governor Sarah Palin tried to move the capital from Juneau to Anchorage but failed. We chuckled.

We had lunch on our sunny balcony as a pile driver drove big piles into the sea nearby for a new pier and float planes took off and landed in twos and threes. Time for another hot tub and swim before sail away. Then ‎off we went toward Ketchican in the glorious sunset. Another very nice day.

Next day, we pulled into Ketchikan mid-morning. It was clouded over but not raining as forecast. The HAL Oosterdam, a Regent ship, the Coral Princess and Norwegian Bliss were already there to greet us. Later the Celebrity Eclipse showed up again after the Bliss left. All in all, roughly 14,000 cruise tourists in one day here!!

Art our tour guide, is Haida whose family came from BC. Ketchikan is actually on an island, the salmon capital of the world with a population of 14,000. ‎We drove by the Simsian Nation island reserve. Art said they have timber and fishing rights on their lands. We are a 1+ hr float plane flight from Prince Rupert, BC.

We went to a small river but perhaps as it was midday again, we saw no bears eating salmon. We then visited the Saxman Totem Row Park.   It consists of dozens of authentic totem poles relocated from Tlingit village sites in the 1930s. We met a native guide and followed him around.  ‎Each totem pole tells a story but you need an interpreter. Art then took us to another stream teaming with pink salmon.  As we went to pick one up a local man came over and blasted Art for encouraging this. Art’s response to us was that there are a billion pink salmon (the least valued type) and they are all about to die anyway.

Art our tour guide
Teaming pink salmon

We saw a few more interesting sites. Ketchican Indian Community Centre provides free medical, clothing, food and housing assistance to any Native American. You have to prove you are at least 1/8th Indian explained Art. 1,145,000 annual tourists visit each year.‎ 12+ feet of rain a year, 1949 record 202.55 inches = 12. 66 ft. Salmon like rain. We learned a lot about life here from Art.

Back on board the HAL Westerdam, it was gala surf and turf night in the Main Dining Room followed by a singing and dancing show on the Mainstage. Food was excellent, the company great and the entertainment very good.

Overall rating of cruise to come.

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Alaskan Cruise – Glacier Bay and Haines

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As we entered Glacier National Park on the Westerdam it was grey, cloudy, foggy and windy with a bit of rain. Oh sure we thought, won’t see much today. As we journeyed north to John Hopkins glacier, some 50+ miles, gradually it cleared!! Suddenly we could see the peak of Mt Fairweather (15300ft) in clear blue sky. Chunks of ice floated by. We saw a humpback whale surface for a breath. Moreover, because it was now September, our cruise ship was permitted ‎to cruise right up into the Johns Hopkins inlet as the seal mating was over for the season.

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Mt Fairweather

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Calving of the Johns Hopkins Glacier

On the larger pieces of ice we saw numerous seals floating by.  Some startled by our ship, slid off into the torquisey water.  Wow! We saw 2 or 3 big “calves” of ice fall from off Johns Hopkins into the sea.‎ Dave cought the splash of one in a distant photo. We could hear and see the roar of a waterfall pouring into the bay. Thousands of seagulls were flying around the base of the tidewater glacier, awaiting their lunch. We learned that when the ice tumbles it stirs up food for the gulls as the water churns up fish from deep down.  We were served hot pea soup on the promenade deck, a warm touch we thought.

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Johns Hopkins Glacier

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Johns Hopkins Inlet

After an hour the motionless ship rotated and we sat on our aft balcony in strong sunlight that felt almost as hot as Mexico.  Another HAL shipped passed us going into Hopkins.  This was surely one of the most awesome cruise experiences we have ever had.‎ It does not get better than this. We headed further north. We turned to look at the 250 ft high Margerie tidal glacier not before we looked towards the north to see the Grand Pacific Glacier grinding in from BC now just a few km away.

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The spectacular Margerie tidal glacier

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The Grand Pacific Glacier grinds in from Canada

Finished the afternoon with a soak in the hot tub and swim in the pool in the warm sunshine. Played some cards and then off to bed after a so-so meal in the Lido. Next day we awoke in Haines to low lying cloud. Our friends Mike and Sharron had not been feeling well. We were hopeful they would be better today.

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With the Correaus in Haines

Mike was better while Sharron remained under the weather. We walked around the small town surrounded by the sea and mountains. We found the library for some free wifi. After, Dave toured Fort William H. Seward. Haines (pop 4000) was founded in 1881 by the Presbyterian Church at the invitation of the Tlingit Indians. The fort was built starting in 1909 in response to prolonged border tensions with Canada. In its hey day, over 200 men and officers were stationed here, a hardship posting for sure. However many of these men adapted to Alaskan conditions and ended up settling here.

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Remains of a Company barracks building that burned in 1981.

The original hospital of the fort is now Alaska Indian Arts Centre.

Totem pole restoration workshop.

The parade grounds and officers row.

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In the PM we went on a short excursion to Chilcoot Lake and river in search of brown bears eating salmon. Alas we only saw a few eagles, a few salmon jumping, some dead salmon and many mercanser diving ducks. There is a wire weir across the river with only a narrow opening in the middle. A man sits there and counts the number of salmon passing thru the opening. Strange we thought as he goes for frequent breaks.  Returning to the ship we enjoyed happy hour and a fine dinner with Mike, Mary and Dave.

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Alaskan Cruise – Anchorage to cruising at Sea

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Our taxi arrived right on time at the hotel to take us to the Anchorage train station for our 6:45 AM departure. It was crowded but orderly and we were soon on our way to Seward still in the dark, leaving our bags there for their handling.

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The train was very comfortable but we did have a long walk forward to the coffee bar.  Spectacular glaciers, mountains, rivers and marshes filled our window. There was a mad scramble to take photos, first left, then right. We saw five moose running madly to get away from the train. Lazy beluga whales (small whiteish ones) rolled over off shore. Marie saw a trumpet swan. Fantastic beauty and rugged experience everywhere.

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The spectacular Spencer Glacier on the Kenai Peninsula

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Our engineer hams it up once we arrived in Seward

We arrived in Seward 4 hrs later, a deep water port where the Holland America (HAL) Westerdam awaits us.‎ It was drizzling and cool. Check in was very smooth and we were on board eating lunch with Dave and Mary by 12:30. Food is OK so far but nothing like on Oceania Cruise Line which is renowned for it’s food.

Seward is named after William H. Seward, Abraham Lincoln’s capable Secretary of State during the U.S. Civil War.  He negotiated the Alaskan Purchase from Russia in 1867 at a bargain price and is very highly regarded here.  Alaska entered the Union as the 49th State in 1959.

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Seward harbour

We have done quite a few cruises before and this will be our 2nd on HAL.  The Westerdam is an older ship built in 2004 with a capacity of 1964 passengers, making it medium sized in our view. It was renovated a few years back but has a bit of a tired look to it. It is adequate and clean.  Our cabin is very good, an aft balcony i.e. a balcony facing the stern of the ship.  Our cabin steward named May introduced himself and was very friendly and helpful.

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Our aft balcony, top row third cabin from right

Two of our bags arrived quickly but the 3rd and biggest one got delayed 3 hrs. Apparently the tag with the cabin# fell off and they had to trace it to us by name. It was a frustrating delay but all was well at last.  We had the standard safety drill on deck but mercifully did not have to don the life jackets this time.

We had dinner in the Lido and met a nice couple from Oregon. We turned in early but not before hearing a talk by the cruise director on Alaska, it’s history, people and spirit. HAL was the first cruise line to “do” Alaska in 1975. It proved very successful and the other mass lines quickly followed.  HAL owns the McKinley Chalet Resort and the Westmark Hotel chain too.

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Warm enough for we Canadians.  Heated pool too.

We learned that few years back, a jet taking off from Juneau collided with a salmon lol! Apparently a bald eagle saw the plane coming and dropped it’s prey onto the windshield. Windshield Sushi read the headline, lol!  It was Captain Cook who discovered Alaska in 1778. 15% of Alaskans are of indigenous origin.  Each Alaskan receives a generous cash dividend each year from the State’s rich resource account.  The cost of living in Alaska is significantly higher than in the lower 49 (as much as +30% in Anchorage and +50% elsewhere).

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Marie on the aft balcony

Ship rocked a bit that night as we crossed the Gulf of Alaska but was still very quiet for sleeping.  The next day was a day at sea on our leisurely way to Glacier Bay.  We enjoyed the ship’s facilities and then dressed up a bit for the 1st gala evening.  Sadly, some of our friends had picked up a fever, were on medication and confined to their cabin.  We looked forward to seeing them again as soon as soon as they felt better.

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Me too.

Here is a map of our cruise routing.

Alaska routing

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Alaska the Last Frontier

 

Scan_20190918 (3)“Alaska the Last Frontier” is the catchy tag line that seems to capture visitors’ concept of Alaska well.  However, Marie coming from Newfoundland and Dave having lived in Vancouver, remained a bit skeptical at first.

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After 2×3 hr flight‎s from Winnipeg we arrived safely in Anchorage on a warm sunny day.

Our taxi driver gave us a running commentary on the way in.  Everyone loves the outdoors here – fishing, hunting, hiking, etc.. “If you don’t, you probably won’t like living here.” he quipped.  He loves fishing and is used to the colder weather now.  He loves it here.

We notice that it was visibly hazy.  He explained this was smoke from some nearby forest fires. You could really smell it. There are more airplanes in Alaska per capita than anywhere he stated, as we drove by the biggest float plane port in the world.  We later learned only about half of Alaskan pilots are licensed to fly!  He went on to praise Canada and said “Paris married New York and they had a baby and called it Montreal.”, which he really loves to visit.  Cute.

Coming in we saw small trees, a lake, brown grass, some ducks, all much like home. We adjusted our clocks back yet another hour from Vancouver.‎ We could see that there are a lot of indigenous people here with a Pacific look about their faces.  Wow, another rich cultural experience here.

Our hotel was functional but on the outskirts. Fortunately there was a mall next door with a grocery and wine store. The clerk in the wine store insisted we show age ID!  So we contented ourselves with a nice meal in the room of crab, baguette and wine. Then we slept 10 hrs!

The next day we picked up a rental car and drove SW out the pretty Turnagain Arm off the Cook Inlet.  It was Captain Cook who “discovered” and mapped the coast of Alaska in 1778, hence the name.  Magnificent mountains come tumbling down to the Sea as the tide runs out and back in quickly. We stopped for some photos in the sun. Magpies everywhere, beluga whales offshore.  Continuing on we headed for the Mt Aleyaska Resort Hotel. The sun staid out and the smoke dissipated a bit.

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We took the tram up about 1500 vertical ft and gazed at snow covered Mt Aleyaska. It’s peak is almost 4000 ft above sea level. There is a massive ski hill here too with double black diamond trails. This reminded Dave of his Whistler skiing days long ago – 9000+ ft above sea level and a whopping 5000+ vertical ft ski run!  Aleyaska rivals but can’t compare.  Aleyaska means “great country” and was the original name of Alaska we learn.

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Descending we drove lazily back to Anchorage in time to meet our friends from Arnprior, the Dohertys and Correaus, for dinner.‎  The Doherty’s had taken a land tour first and spent time in Denali Park where the great Mt. McKinley towers 20,310 ft. The Correaus had flown in to Anchrage the day after us and were staying at the same hotel.  A great night was had by all!

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The next day we drove with the Correaus NW to Eklutna Lake for a photo shoot.  It was very beautiful and somewhat reminiscent of Lake Louise. ‎After returning the car we hooked up with the Dohertys and went to the town market which was full of artisan works. During a humorous scenic trolley ride around town we learned:
– pop of Alaska 740,000
– pop of Anchorage‎ 300,000
1964 Alaskan earthquake near Anchorage magnitude 9.2, the 2nd strongest ever recorded in history
– only 7 fatalities in Anchorage as it hit at 5 PM on a Good Friday with no one in school, on the road etc. (126 elsewhere in Alaska died sadly due to tsunamis and landslides)

Finished with a tasty succotash dinner (corn, lima and other beans), the end of our short wonderful stay in Anchorage.‎  Alaska, the Last (American) Frontier is sure a great place to visit so far.

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Swing West

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Elias welcomes our swing west

We just returned from a swing out west.  We started in Winnipeg with a family visit to Kyle, Ashley and Elias. Next was a short stay in Anchorage, AK.  Then we cruised the Alaskan coast to Vancouver.  Finished up with a fine stay with the Oblates in YVR.  It’s good to get away and it’s good to be home again.

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Elias, now 11+ months old, is a ball of joyful beauty and energy.  He is so accepting, allowing us to hold him, feed him and play peek a boo.  He fills his days with fun activities such as a stroller ride in the park, some bouncy play time, stories, naps and eating.  He is standing with assistance, communicates his needs very well and will be on a real tear soon.  Love you little Elias!  Your parents are doing such a great job.  Ashley, you are so wonderful and Kyle too!  Thanks so much for hosting us on top of your busy schedules you guys.

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Dad and son had a nice round of golf.  Kyle hits the ball a mile with a natural swing that amazes.  Dave is playing well this year and nudged for the win.  Next time could be very different.  It was a great day in the warm August sunshine! Loved the game, thanks again Kyle.

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Marie had some extra time with Elias in the park and at home.  This was her 3rd visit to Winnipeg this year and Dave’s 2nd.  Can’t wait to return.

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Of course we headed to the Forks for a walk and a bite, always a fascinating place to go exploring.  We also had time to visit St. Kateri Tekakwitha (Oblate) parish on Sunday for Mass.  They had a nice social after.  We met the new priest assigned there, Fr Vijay Dievanayagam, OMI, and some fellow Oblate Associates.  We love Winnipeg, our home away from home.

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Dave explored Elias’ future school, just 3 blocks away from home.  Wolseley is a lovely neighbourhood with mature trees, nice parks, paths, shopping nearby and friendly neighbours – lot’s of young families.  You sure are lucky Elias to be a Winnipeg boy!  We are so blessed to have you in our lives.

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P.S. Happy Birthday Kyle!

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Return Home and QC/NB Trip by the Numbers

We returned home from St John, NB via Maine as it is a shorter route.  We stopped overnight in Waterville using our Best Western points.  The next day we drove to Magog, QC and walked around the lovely park on the shore of Lake Memphremagog.  That night we stayed near Waterloo, QC where one of Dave’e university buddies comes from.  We really enjoyed the beauty of the Eastern Townships – hills, lakes, streams, hiking trails, picturesque little towns and bicycle paths everywhere.

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Leaving NB

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Maine

When we got to Ottawa we stopped at the Oblates residence for dinner.  Outgoing Provincial Fr. Ken Forster and Vicar-General Fr. Jim Bleakley were turning leadership responsibility over to Fr. Ken Thorson and Fr. Richard Beaudette.  It was great to say goodbye for now to these great friends and hope to see you again soon.

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QC/NB Trip By the Numbers

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The purpose of this road trip was to visit Marie’s brother Kevin and sister-in-law Phyllis. in St John, NB.  For a map of our basic routing, click here.

The highlights we found most enjoyable were:

  • Old Montreal – the architecture, food, music, shopping and Notre Dame Cathedral
  • Manoir Dauth – exquisite room, welcome and breakfast by Brigitte and Christian
  • Auberge de Belle Plage – in Baie-St-Paul, beach, restaurants, boutiques, live music
  • Finding a room at La Villa D’Antan, Sainte-Luce when all was full in Rimouski
  • Our great visit with Kevin and Phyllis, lunch and city tour in St John on a sunny day
  • great pool table and game at Kevin’s and seeing Troy and Tyler
  • Visiting departing Oblates in Ottawa while on our way home

Overall trip by the numbers:

  • 2700 kms driven over 13 days
  • 12 nights, 2 provinces, 1 state
  • 11 sunny days, rain 2 days
  • 35 beautiful old churches visited or photographed
  • 3 seafood  and 1 duck dinners, best chowder
  • the best breakfast we ever had
  • 3 swimming pools
  • low traffic, convenient parking available, friendly people
  • 300+ photos taken
  • accommodating our English and putting up with Dave’s French
  • first Airbnb experience very positive
  • good shopping in and around Montreal (Point Claire)

Another great trip.  Thanks be to God and for travelling with us.

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D & M  xo

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