Showing posts with label Canada. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Canada. Show all posts

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Getting Our Kicks on Route. . . 97

'Nothing behind me, everything ahead of me, as is ever so on the road.'
                              -- Jack Kerouac

I know, you are thinking I've made a doozy of a mistake. Because everyone knows you get your kicks on Route 66 - that stretch of highway crossing America that has been immortalized in song, fiction, film and travel paraphernalia.

But let me tell you that you can also get some mighty fine kicks on Route 97 as well! 

I'll admit that before setting out on our latest road trip, I hadn't given much thought to that stretch of north-south road known as Route 97. We've traveled it often as a means of simply getting from one place to another. 

Gettin' our kicks on Route 97

Regulars readers know that we are American boomer expats who gave up suburban Seattle life and spend most of our year living in Greece. Last fall we replanted our part-time U.S. roots in the small unincorporated town of Manson, on the shores of Lake Chelan in eastern Washington State.

It didn't take long to realize that even though we both grew up in Eastern Washington, that our familiarity with the area has faded over the decades. In many ways the territory surrounding us here feels more foreign - at least unfamiliar - than does Greece.

Our new wheels being delivered to Manson

So, during our month-long stay this fall, we declared it time to get out and explore this new-to-us territory. After taking delivery in Manson of a Toyota RAV we'd purchased on line while still back in Greece, we set off. Traveling a portion of Route 97 was our first outing. One of the things we learned is just how much of a name for itself, our old - somewhat familiar - Route 97 is making.

Things we didn't know about Route 97 

Route 97 - a scenic wonderland awaits travelers 

* It is one of the longest north-south highways in North America. It runs north from Weed, California, through Oregon and Washington, crosses the Canadian border into British Columbia where it becomes the Alaska Highway at Dawson Creek, B.C. It concludes at Watson Lake.

* If you traveled its full length -- 4,130 kilometers or 2,566 miles -- your journey would take you through semi-arid desert, interior rain forests, grasslands, mountain ranges, urban centers and rural settings so charming they could be movie sets.

* Route 97, in the Pacific Northwest is bordered on the east by the Columbia Mountain Range and to the west, the Cascade Range. The route winds through lush wine country and past old west ghost towns, places once teeming with mining activities.

A tribute on Route 97 to the Indigenous Nations and their people 

* Between Wenatchee, Washington and Cache Creek, B.C., Canada Route 97 promotion is a partnership between North Central Washington, Thompson Okanagan, B.C. and three Indigenous Nations.

*In Washington State the route got its start thousands of years ago as a trail used by the Indigenous people. The Columbia Cascades of Route 97 passes through lands of three Nations: Nlaka'pamux, Okanagan (Syilx)  and Secwepemc. Miners and early pioneers were to follow those same pathways as they settled in what is now the area encompassing three counties: Chelan, Douglas and Okanogan.

Route 97 in Washington State

The Columbia Cascades Route 97 - where we traveled

While our new Washington home puts us within easy driving distance from Canada we didn't make it to the border on our six-hour outing. We went only as far as Omak some 44 miles (64K) from the border.

A portion of Lake Chelan as seen from 'The Butte' 

We set off from Lake Chelan - a glacier-fed 55-mile long lake. Heading north we followed first the Columbia River and then the Okanogan River to Omak. This small town is home of the Omak Stampede, an event that brings the old West to life each year.  The Stampede draws thousands each year to this small town but on this crisp autumn morning we had the place to ourselves.

Omak Home of the annual western Stampede

Murals decorate the buildings in Omak

While there we saw several murals which tourist brochures credit as the work of  Frank Matsura, a 19th Century Japanese photographer. I couldn't find any reference to murals, but the guy's history is fascinating and worth clicking that link to read!

Rawson's Department Store didn't let us down

Then on to Okanogan town, five miles to the south. We once visited a Western outfitters store there, the type that caters to the clothing and supply needs of cowboys and cowgirls (yes, they still exist in the Western United States). The place has been around since the mid-1950's and in itself is worth making a trip to Okanogan to visit. We were delighted to find it still going strong and now it has all sorts of clothing and shoes! Okanogan is so delightfully 'Small Town Americana' that I could have filled this post with photos taken there.

Scenes like this make a road trip special

At Okanogan we opted to return home driving on the 'old Route 97' that cuts through orchards and vineyards high above the 'new 97' that follows the Columbia River.

Apple harvest is underway along old Route 97

We returned to the low lands at Pateros, a town at the confluence of the Columbia and Methow rivers.

Every July Pateros is the scene of the Apple Pie Jamboree. From the size of the apple packing sheds  (those facilities that receive apples from the grower and pack them for world-wide distribution) there was no doubt in our mind that the Apple Pie Jamboree is being held in the right community!

Apple Pie Jamboree - takes place in Pateros

If you go:

Had we wanted to make this outing an overnight trip, we'd have likely stayed at the 12 Tribes Casino and Hotel located just off Route 97 between Omak and Okanogan.  It is a small facility but upscale with the hotel attached to the side of casino. Two eateries on the property make it an easy roadside stop.

Next year we plan to explore several of the other loop drives that take off from Route 97. For maps and tips on those drives in Washington State and Canada check out the Route 97 website, (click the link to access).

Views along Route 97 are spectacular

That's it from the Pacific Northwest. Our month here has gone rapidly and we are packing up to return to Greece. After all, it is almost time to harvest those olives of ours!  Hope you'll be back soon for more tales of expat travel and life. Until then, thanks again for your time here and wishes for safe travels to you and yours ~

Linking soon with:

Through My Lens
Our World Tuesday
Wordless Wednesday

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

On the Pacific Rim Highway

“When it says, ‘Slow’, it means it,” we were cautioned several times in Nanaimo before setting out on the twisting, two-lane Vancouver Island’s Pacific Rim Highway 4.

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The  highway cuts across the forested spine of the island and was our route from Nanaimo on the island’s east coast to Tofino on its west coast.  Short of using a boat or plane, it is the only route between the two.

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The scenic route some 124 miles (208 kilometers) long, twists and turns past spectacular mountain peaks, stunning lakes, many power lines and concrete road barriers; the latter two, every shutter bug’s bane. 
Come along as we set out on the Pacific Rim Highway: 

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We took a break from the highway at Port Alberni a deep port city some 51 miles/82 kilometers from Naniamo. We drove to its Harbour Quay, a delightful mix of tourist accommodations and industrial businesses.

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VancouverIs2013 051Set in the Alberni Valley it is on Vancouver Island’s longest inlet, Alberni Inlet.  With a population of some 18,000, the town’s motto is: Gateway to the West Coast

Directional signs pointed towards the Chase and Warren Estate Winery and Emerald Coast Vineyards, but those we tucked away in our ‘future trip’ file.

VancouverIs2013 053One place we couldn’t resist was off in the industrial looking area of the Quay – Home of the Cod Father.  The clever name got us in and the display case filled with smoked salmon was a feast for the culinary senses. . .teriyaki, lemon and honey, some spicy concoction . . .the selections far too many.  We finally chose two types and set off for our destination.

By early afternoon we were approaching the west coast – the sky had turned heavy and gray, the ‘highway’ narrowed and coiled:

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But by late afternoon, we’d arrived in Tofino where they obviously didn’t want anyone confused about being at the end of the road:

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If You Go:

Thanks to Tourism Vancouver for the excellent map showing the route of the Pacific Rim Highway. (It is also called Highway 4). 

VancouverIs2013 196The route is a beautiful one, but not for the faint at heart or those who have a fear of being on road trips. 

The warnings we had received were on point: the twists and turns make it a slow go.  Sadly, we passed two accident scenes – one on our westbound trip, another on our eastbound. One was an upside down car and another was a car smashed into a tree trunk. . . and both, even more sadly, were on straight stretches of the highway!

That’s it for this Travel Photo Thursday so head over to Budget Travelers Sandbox!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Travel Tuesday: Nanaimo–Beyond the Bar

Nanaimo – a harbor town on Vancouver Island’s east coast with a name that sounds like a children’s chant:  “na-NI-moe” and rhymes with ‘the wino’ -- seems best known in this part of the world by the dessert bar that carries its name.

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That’s pretty much what we knew about the place when we set sail aboard a BC ferry headed to it on a recent September Sunday afternoon.

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Coast Hotel - Nanaimo
The city, which served as both our entry point to the island and our departure point for a road trip across it, has a long rich history, Archaeologists have traced its beginnings back 3,000 years. It was once home to migrant coastal Salish (First Nation people) called Snuneymuxw (pronounced Sna-nay-mo), we learned along the way. By 1852 coal mining was a thriving activity and that led to its nickname, "Black Diamond City."

Because we weren't arriving until evening, The Scout had found us a hotel on Expedia the day before we left, that was both a good price, had large rooms and small balconies, from which we had a view of the harbor and a tiny view of the city’s Old Quarter. 

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The Bastion
We also had a view of  The Bastion. Built in 1853, Nanaimo’s oldest building – one of the oldest in the province – and an original Hudson’s Bay Company Fort.

These days it’s pretty small compared to our hotel across the street, but back when it was built, it served as the center of this coal mining settlement.

We set out to find breakfast and explore the Old Quarter before commencing our road trip.

So come along with us while we tell you a bit more about this wonderful town:

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Commercial Street Nanaimo
Nanaimo, home to about 82,000, is 70 miles (113 kilometers) north of Victoria. Its gently curving Commercial Street is lined with turn-of-the 20th Century buildings among them Art Deco, Edwardian and one of our favorites, the columned Classical Revival styled National Land Building, built in 1914 during a coal mining strike.

PicMonkey Collage

With far too many ‘cute cafes’ on Commercial Street from which to choose, we opted for Tina’s Diner.  Its d├ęcor was irresistible and clientele obviously regulars.

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Nanaimo's former train station - a highlight of the Old Quarter
Needing a bit more exercise before hitting the road, we walked a few blocks more to see the town’s former train station – now home to an eatery.
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And then back around to its still functioning Courthouse, near the harbor.

PicMonkey Collage

Had we stayed longer I am certain we’d have had to sipped a cool one at this fun place just a couple blocks from our hotel, but as it was mid-morning, we only toured  its charming old interior – and vowed to return.

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Nanaimo is surrounded by golf courses, has a beautiful pleasure craft marina and has been named one of the best scuba diving destinations in North America.  Since 1967 it has been home to the World Championship Bathtub Races (yes, contestants race around the harbor in bathtubs). 
But that triple-layer sticky sweet pastry – the Nanaimo Bar – seems to remain  the iconic symbol of this town.

Don’t tell the tourism folks, who’ve actually published a directory of where to sample them during your visit – but this sign is as close as we came to seeing one, let alone eating one!

However, I did find a recipe for Nanaimo bars and a Nanaimo Bar Trail Map on this link  for those of you in need of a shot (a big shot) of sugar.

That’s it for Travel Tuesday this week.  Next week we’ll show you the other side of Vancouver Island – and give you a tour of the place where we stayed.

If You Go:                                            
A great source of information for Nanaimo is Tourism Nanaimo.  (Thanks to them for this great map!).

Click  BC ferries for schedules, destinations, prices - 

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Beach bummin’ and Bare footin’ in B.C. Canada

Surfers, ocean waves, sandy beaches, blue skies, high hotel prices – sounds pretty much like Hawaii, doesn’t it?

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What it hadn’t sounded like – until last week’s road trip to British Columbia’s Vancouver Island – was, Canada!  If you’ve followed along on Facebook or Tuesday’s Travel post, you know we headed north on a whim last week; our last chance  to squeeze in a summer road trip. 

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Long Beach, British Columbia

Tofino, on the island’s West Coast mid-section was our ultimate destination; one that is a great place to watch the churning Pacific Ocean surf attack the coastline during winter storms.  Having never been here before, we assumed September was mid- to low- season, hoped for reasonable hotel prices and prepared for unsettled weather. 

PicMonkey Collage
Monday to the left and Tuesday to the right
Those who live in the Pacific Northwest know ‘what a difference a day makes', and that was certainly illustrated during our brief visit. The photos on the left were taken Monday afternoon and those on the right on Tuesday.

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Long Beach, just a few miles south of Tofino is the largest and longest beach in the island’s Pacific Rim National Park Reserve.

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The beach surface

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The beach surface was a mixture of fine sand pebbles and hard pack (photos above) – and felt much like walking on a cobbled-street.

This portion of the Reserve with its scattered campgrounds and picnic areas, spans the forest and coast on Wickanninish Bay between the small towns of Tofino (toe-fin-oh) and Ucluelet (U-clue-let or Ukee, for short). It is one of the most popular surfing locations in Canada.

While Long Beach required a user’s fee for everyone on the beach, (self-service,‘credit/debit card only’ machines were in the parking lot and security officers checked vehicle’s dashboards for the permits), we almost preferred no-cost MacKenzie Beach, a bit further north, on which our resort was located. You can probably tell why from the photos below. . .

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MacKenzie Beach, Vancouver Island

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Sunset MacKenzie Beach, Vancouver Island

For those who have images of the Pacific Northwest being mountains and towering fir trees – don’t despair.  Come back next Thursday when we’ll take you across Vancouver Island on the Pacific Rim Highway and later this month we'll take you on a tour of the resort where we stayed.

If You Go:

Map picture

The push pins show MacKenzie Beach (near Tofino, where we stayed) and Long Beach, which is within the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve.

Hotel prices:  Mid-September hotel prices were so high, they took our breath away.  Most hotels had “No Vacancy” signs on display and we stopped at two resorts to inquire about rooms: one quoted $399CAD for a room overlooking the parking lot behind the hotel away from the water and another offered a partial view room at $420 and $460CAD for a beach view.  By the time we got to a Best Western and were quoted – at first – $299CAD a night, it sounded, downright cheap! There’ll be more on where we ended up in a future post.

VancouverIs2013 265Pacific Rim National Park Reserve user fees and other information about the reserve can be found at:

That’s it for this week’s Travel Photo Thursday. Head over to Budget Travelers Sandbox for more travels around the world! On Friday check out The Tablescraper's Oh, The Places I have been"

‘Hang Ten!’ as they say in the surfing world and see you soon. . .

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Tuesday Travel: North to Nanaimo

We set out on one of our famous spur-of-the-moment road  trips last week, heading north to explore parts of Canada’s Vancouver Island.  We’d spent far too much time at home – it was time to sneak in a brief summer road trip and what better way to do it than on the water!

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We set our direction late Saturday and by Sunday  afternoon we were on the road heading some 130 miles north of  our Kirkland home, crossing the border into British Columbia and hopping the ferry from the mainland’s Tsawwassen to Nanaimo on the island’s east coast.

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Leaving Tsawwassen ferry terminal

We could have taken the passenger only Victoria Clipper from Seattle to Victoria but would have then needed to rent a car to see as much of the island as we planned to visit.

Or we could have taken the Washington State car/passenger ferry from Anacortes which would have deposited us in Sydney, B.C., also on the island's east coast. 

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But we were headed to Nanaimo – a bit further north; our gateway to the Pacific Rim Highway – the route we would take to the island’s reputedly wet, sometimes wild, west coast. The ferry was not inexpensive – the fare for the car and two passengers was $82.55. We'd also paid an additional non-refundable $18.50 to make a reservation, assuring ourselves of a spot on the gigantic boat. Not only did we not need to worry about getting on the ferry, we found ourselves the first car in line!  Now, how often does that happen?

PicMonkey Collage

On the just more than two hour ferry ride, we paVancouverIs2013 012ssed a gathering of fishing boats, saw a stunning sunset and then watched that always amazing way ferries glide into their terminals; this one some eight kilometers outside Nanaimo.

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If you are in the United States or Canada, you are probably thinking that name, Nanaimo (na-NYE-moe, by the way) sounds familiar.  You recognize it as dessert bars – yes, Nanaimo Bars are named for this town. But there is so much more here than a famous confectionery creation! Come back next Tuesday when we’ll show you  “Nanaimo: Beyond the Bar”.

If You Go:

Map picture

B.C. Ferries:

British Columbia tourism information:


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