Back to Phoenix

We drove back to Phoenix yesterday. Before leaving San Diego, I managed to get through all of my photos and select the ones I wanted to process. Plus, I uploaded all of our Canada/Alaska vacation photos to Adorama in preparation for creating my photo book for the trip. That took most of the day. Uploading is super slow. But I knew it would be worse in Phoenix, because it took about six hours to upload my 60 YPC photos. I had over 500 from our vacation.

Since we were driving due east, we weren’t in a hurry to get out of the condo and face the rising sun. Our departure time was right around 10:30, which worked out perfectly. The drive home was a bore and I managed to stay awake just enough to navigate. We arrived just before 5:00, which would have been a nightmare if it wasn’t Sunday.

Unloading the car and putting everything away shook me out of my stupor enough that I managed to work my way through the zoo photos, about a third of my total for the trip. They were still uploading when I crawled into bed at 9:30. I stayed in bed for ten hours and my night was plagued with a string of bizarre dreams. Did I mention that I came down with a bit of a cold while we were in San Diego? Apparently it’s effecting my mental state. Not hard to do these days.

Last Full Day in San Diego

Yesterday was our last full day in San Diego. It’s a good time to leave because the weather is heading for record temps today. I feel especially bad for Nola and her parents, as Disneyland is going to hit triple digits for two of their three days there. Not what you’d expect for late October. Nola had developed a rash on her cheek, so her parents took her to a pharmacy to get something for it and the pharmacist recommended taking her to a nurse practitioner for a quick look.

Their little detour to the Minute Clinic ate up a good chunk of the morning. Fortunately we weren’t leaving until tomorrow, so we just hung around our condo. When they finished it was noon, so we ended up meeting them for lunch at a lovely restaurant in Del Mar. It’s always hard to say goodbye, especially when we don’t know exactly when we’re going to see them again. It will be in Australia, most likely in June when our house is being shown on the Artisan Home Tour.

We made a quick trip to the San Diego Botanical Garden after lunch. It was only fifteen minutes away and it was nice to do a little walking after eating. Of course it was a huge disappointment after seeing the Butchart Gardens so recently. Then we headed back for our last night in the beach condo. Traffic through La Jolla was terrible, mostly due to the enormous amount of pedestrians. The street between our condo and the beach is closed for most of the day today for a bike race and triathlon. It’s going to be fun getting out of here. NOT.


Yesterday we hit Legoland. But before we left, my sister-in-law and I made a quick trip to a nearby Sketchers outlet store. The exceptionally warm weather they encountered for most of their visit meant she had one pair of shoes that got worn almost the entire time and they were about to give up the ghost. Of course I also managed to find two pairs to add to my ridiculous collection. Hey, the second pair was half price, so practically free.

We drove separately to Legoland and once again met up near the ticket booth. Once again I had a problem transaction right in front of me. By the time we actually entered the park it was nearly 11:00. I had pretty low expectations for Legoland and was really surprised by how nice it was. We ended up staying until the park closed at 5:00.

We stopped at the grocery store on our way back and picked up more champagne. Last night was our final night together, as they are driving to Santa Monica today to spend the night before wrapping up their epic holiday with a three day stint at Disneyland. They’ll be flying home on Wednesday night, coincidentally the same day that we do. I think we’re all a bit anxious to sleep in our own beds again.

Old Town San Diego

Yesterday was our second day in San Diego. We started it out at 6:00, just as the sun was coming up. I fortified myself with a double dose of KCup coffee and spent a little time outside of our condo photographing the waves crashing against the shore, surfers and a flock of pelicans. Not a bad start to the day. Since we had a long day at the zoo the prior day, we decided to keep today a little more low key.

We ended up going to Old Town San Diego. They had a nice display set up for Dia De Los Muertos. We wandered around for a while, I bought a t-shirt and we had churros. Afterwards we went to the Pacific Beach Fish House for lunch. Seriously, some of the best scallops I have ever eaten. After lunch we headed to the beach. The waves at the beach by our condo were a little too intense, so we had to drive about 15 minutes to find one where Nola could actually go in the water.

Then we came back and visited some tide pools just a few minutes walk from where we are staying. We saw some crabs and anemones, but sadly no starfish. Dinner was sort of a scrounge since we were still too full from lunch to eat another full meal. But it was accompanied by the bottle of champagne I brought from Phoenix, so it really didn’t matter.

San Diego Zoo

We spent our first full day in San Diego at the zoo, naturally. Since we didn’t have a vehicle large enough to accommodate everyone, we drove separately and met up near the ticket booths at 10:00. Unfortunately, I chose the wrong line. It was the shortest, but one woman managed to take up a full ten minutes when purchasing her tickets. I was cursing my choice every time another person got through the line next to ours. Which happened about six times.

We opted to start at the back of the zoo and work our way out towards the front, so we rode the Skyfari to the far side to see the polar bears. It was a little warm, but there were a tremendous amount of trees, so we were almost always in the shade. When it got to be 1:00, we stopped for lunch. By 3:00 we had worked our way back to the entrance and our final stop was for the “4D” movie experience. It was a 3D short for Halloween. The fourth dimension involved sensations such as the seat vibrating, blasts of air and water and the creepy feeling of some ribbon material by our feet.

It was actually a very cool experience and Nola loved it. I could have done without the water part. We left just after 3:30 and were happy to find that the traffic was minimal, at least on our side of the freeway. The other side was horrendous. We stopped at the grocery store for more supplies (bought too much, of course) and then went back to our condo to put up our feet and have a few snacks.

Dinner was at a local Mexican restaurant within walking distance. The sun had already set and it had cooled down considerably. We passed a lot of beautiful homes and some really high end car dealerships (Ferrari, Rolls Royce) along the way, which made for some nice window shopping. The food was good, but I was disappointed with my margarita. By the time we walked back, I was already having trouble keeping my eyes open. I ended up crawling into bed at 9:00. I am getting old. But I’m feeling really rested this morning.

San Diego Arrival

It feels weird to be publishing in real time again. We arrived at our rental condo in La Jolla just before 4:00 pm yesterday. We pulled up to the building and I realized something was amiss when I checked our parking instructions, which clearly stated we were to park in the middle spot of the driveway. The only driveway we saw was leading down to an underground parking garage. So we parked on the street (lucky to find a close spot) and went to check things out.

Turns out, we were on the wrong side of the building. We drove around the block, parked in our designated space and found the lockbox with our door key. Then I read the rest of the entry instructions and found we could only enter the building via the door on the other side. So we drove around again and parked so we could unload our luggage and bring it up to the condo. The exterior door was keyed, but the condo door had an electronic lock. Two, actually. One for the handle and one for the deadbolt. Problem was, they time out. So entering the code in succession for both locks and getting the door open took more than a few tries.

It took two trips to bring all of our luggage up and then we drove back around the block again and parked. We were just getting out of the car when I received a text from my husband’s sister. They had arrived and didn’t know how to get into the building. Her entry instructions were much less clear than ours and she was hunting for the lock box on the wrong side of the building while her husband sat in the car blocking the driveway to the underground garage.

I let her into the building and she opened the garage door from inside so he could park the car. Then I showed her where to get the key and helped them bring the luggage up to their condo, which was one floor above ours. They also had an electronic lock on the door and the code was buried in their entry instructions. The rental company provides an app with all of the information, but is apparently pretty inconsistent about how it’s presented.

Nola and her dad needed to shower off sand from the beach, so my husband’s sister and I walked to a nearby grocery store to get supplies for dinner and breakfast. I managed to get us slightly lost locating the store. It’s actually quite close, but the roads are curved and there’s a museum in the way of the most direct path. Our landing at San Diego proved to be a bit rocky, but hopefully that’s disaster proofed us for the rest of the trip.

Calgary to Home – 9/29

Today was the last day of our epic journey. We spent the previous night getting most of our luggage packed, so we didn’t have too much to get ready for our departure in the morning. So of course, I was wide awake at 6:30. My legs were covered with bruises – a combination of my camera banging against them and some awkward entries into my seat on the train. I also had sore calves and a stiff right hip flexor from our ill considered hike the previous day. Totally worth it.

We took the larger bags out to the car on the way to our final buffet breakfast at Chili’s. My husband stood behind the car pressing the trunk open button on the key fob, but nothing happened. Oh shit, did the battery die? Then we looked up and saw the trunk of the car about 50 feet ahead of us standing open. We were trying to get into the wrong rental car. It was the identical make, model and color, just parked slightly closer to our room. What were the odds of that happening? We laughed about it all through breakfast.

We ended up hitting the road a good hour before it was necessary, just because we really didn’t have anything else to do. We waved goodbye to Banff and hit the road to Calgary. The highway was nice and smooth and the scenery was stunning, at least for the first half of the drive. The only notable occurrence was a raging car fire (fortunately) on the other side of the highway.

Since we had so much extra time before our flight, we decided to park in short term parking and check our bags before returning the rental car. That all went smoothly. Then we needed to fill the tank and things went a bit sideways. Our GPS indicated there was a gas station on airport property. I was skeptical, but it only involved a few turns, so we gave it a try. Nope. So we tried the next closest place. It took us on the highway and then wanted us to turn around and double back. Not falling for that one again. We had already spotted a station on the other side of the highway, so we went with the sure thing.

Then we returned the rental car and went in with just our carry-on baggage. Calgary allows you to pass through US Customs at the airport, saving you from doing so upon landing. I was caught a little off guard by the Global Entry kiosk and ended up having my photo taken with my boarding pass in my mouth. So flattering. The customs screening was the most effective one I’ve ever experienced. The agent engaged us in a conversation, asking about our trip, where we lived, our (previous) jobs and where we graduated from college. It was very pleasant for us, but anyone traveling with a nefarious purpose would have started stammering. Way more effective than random screening.

Delta doesn’t have a lounge in Calgary, so we had a very nice lunch at Wolfgang Puck’s and finished just before it was time to head to our gate. The international terminal is brand new and gorgeous, but the gates were a pretty far hike and had limited seating and nothing in the way of services nearby. It was a short and uneventful flight. Our vacation was fabulous, but it’s always nice to come home again.

Lake Louise – 9/28

Since this was our last day in Banff, the family deferred to us regarding activities for the day. The obvious move was to check out Lake Louise, so we did. The plan was to leave at 9:00 am, but we received a text at 8:30 telling us that Nola was still sleeping and it would be at least an hour before they could hope to have her up and ready. So we decided to get a head start and meet everyone else there. Since we had extra time, we went off the interstate and took the scenic route.

We ended up stopping and photographing an aspen grove. (One of my many photographic obsessions) Between that and the slower speed limit, we ended up arriving at Lake Louise about five minutes after the rest of our family. Which was a good thing, because they literally shut down the parking lot just a few minutes later due to it being completely full. On a Thursday at the end of September. I can’t imagine what it’s like during the summer here.

After spending a few minutes walking around Lake Louise, we decided to do the hike to the tea house. I had read about it and, while it sounded a little arduous, I figured we would be unlikely to get all the way to the top with Nola as part of the group. Boy, was I wrong. Nola ended up being carried by her dad for a significant portion of the hike and the rest of us were all too stubborn to quit.

It took nearly an hour and a half, but we all made it. We lingered at the top, squeezing in at a shared table at the tea house and ordering tuna sandwiches, brownies and lemonade. The bread was stale and the lemonade was watery, but I was so thirsty it tasted wonderful. That, and a quarter of one brownie ended up being my lunch. I was kicking myself for not having grabbed a bottle of water and a snack before starting the hike.

By the time we got back to the bottom it was nearly 4:00 and I was astonished to see people just beginning the hike. Have fun coming down in the dark people. We were spent, so my husband and I drove directly back to our hotel, while the rest of the group made a short trip into the town of Lake Louise. We met again for dinner at a restaurant called The Meatball (totally not kidding). The most memorable aspect of it was the muzak – at one point they played the theme from Shaft. After the day we had, McDonald’s would have made me happy.

Banff – 9/27

So, here we were in one of the most beautiful places in the world, and everyone in our group just wanted to sleep. I was up at 7:00, of course. I spent the morning doing a load of laundry, as I wanted to get out of our suite and let my husband sleep as late as he could without me tromping overhead. The morning air was colder than I expected, just a few degrees above freezing, but the sun made up for it. Everywhere I looked there was a mountain. Banff really is stunning.

We took advantage of the free hotel breakfast buffet just before 10:30. The hotel restaurant was a Chili’s, which I found absolutely hysterical. The buffet was surprisingly good, though. After breakfast we drove into town to pick up a few essentials. We met up with the rest of the family in the early afternoon, as they were having lunch in a mall food court. Nola was up to her baby tiger routine – crawling on the floor, growling and untying my shoelace with her teeth.

We decided on separate plans for the afternoon. My husband and I wanted to take the gondola up to Sulphur Mountain, while the brothers-in-law wanted to go hiking, Nola’s mom wanted to take her to a playground and my husband’s other sister wanted to do some shopping. We had just spent two full days together on the train, so a little separation seemed like a good idea.

The gondola ride was fantastic, except for my misguided belief that it would be cooler at the top of the mountain. I should have left the fleece jacket in the car. Afterwards, we met my sisters-in-law for a quick drink in our room before rejoining Nola and her dad for dinner at the hotel Chili’s. They seated us in an isolation booth. Seriously, it was separate from all of the other tables and had a high plexiglass barrier over the top of the booth. How did they know?

Rocky Mountain High – 9/26

We spent some of our previous evening reviewing a revised landscape sketch for our new home and sending feedback. Sometimes I hate the pervasiveness of internet access. What I hate more is a 6:00 am start time. I don’t mean wake-up time, I mean have your butt on the bus time. This was our third day in a row with a super early start and it was starting to wear on us. On the plus side, we had the first seating for breakfast and lunch today.

Once again the day started out extremely gloomy. Nola was completed exhausted and refused to nap at any point during the day, so she got more rambunctious as the hours passed. The stunning scenery quickly made me forget dealing with house stuff. That is, until my phone rang. I was utterly astonished to see that it was our landscape designer calling. I answered it, mostly out of habit, but it’s close to impossible to carry on a coherent conversation on a moving train.

Our breakfast menu was identical to the previous day, so I was hoping the same would be true for lunch, as I was seriously torn on my choice for the previous day. Alas, they had an entirely new menu for lunch. I had to settle for the burger. It did not disappoint. Also in the not disappointing category – the beautiful river we followed for many miles. We even spotted a few eagles in the river and I now have many blurry photos to prove it.

During the journey we received the model train engine and car we had ordered the previous day. It was a great souvenir of our journey and will fit perfectly into the trains/planes/automobiles theme my husband is planning for his new office/study. We also filled out the paperwork to expedite processing the rental car we had waiting for us at the station in Banff. When we entered the Canadian Rockies, our train hosts treated us to “Rocky Mountain High.” Yes, I know the song is about Colorado, but it still fits.

We arrived at the station just as it was starting to get dark. The rental car was a new Ford Fusion, and one of the nicer ones we’ve had. Our hotel was five minutes away and our bags were waiting in the room when we arrived. Our “room” was a two story suite with the living room/kitchenette on the main level and the bedroom and bathroom downstairs. Once again, I was never so happy to crawl into a hotel bed and go to sleep.