Saying Goodbye!

 

Pauline's last lead at Smiths

Pauline’s last lead at Smiths

Mixed emotions about our last week. Excited about going home, ecstatic that our 12 months here over the last 2 years has been beyond brilliant but sad to say goodbye.

Our last ride from Sisters

Our last ride from Sisters

We made our way back from Canada but stopped off Leavenworth to break the journey and Smith’s Rock area as that is where our journey started properly 2 years ago. We managed to get a few climbs and bike rides in before making our way back to the true start of our journey….TINA!

Tina and I started our relationship through the internet when we bought Yogi and our camper from her company (SUMMIT RV). Both of us hoped that the other really existed as I had handed over thousands of pounds without having met her in the hope she would have a truck and camper for us when we flew in. Well, talk about over delivery! She picked us up from the airport and welcomed us into her home for the next two years. When we arrived on Friday night, it felt like we were coming home to old friends.

True to form, Tina had arranged some entertainment with her gang whom we have now met on a couple of occasions and are just great! They are just a bunch for fun loving welcoming people who love fishing, diving …………and beer! Tina had arranged the ultimate fun combination as far as we were concerned – a micro brewery crawl on a communal bike for 12 people!!! Awesome dude!!! All of us pedal and our guide steers us to about 8 different pubs where we have time to have a drink before ringing the bell on the bike and making lots of noise to make sure everybody knew we were going/coming/arriving. It was just a brilliant night and everybody was on top form…including all the strangers we called and sang to in the street as we passed by. We need to bring this to the UK!! Tina and Vito have a great bunch of friends.

The Bike & Beer Transport. FANTASTIC!

The perfect booze cruise transport!

 

The Girls before the Beer & Bike tour

The Girls before the Beer & Bike tour

Close up of our pedal bar

Close up of our pedal bar

The weekend was not over there as we were treated to a trip to the coast with Tina and Vito in Vito’s HUGE truck which is a treat in itself. The Oregon coast is famous for its rugged beauty and we got to see it first hand. We nearly went salmon fishing as Vito is a bit of a guru in this department but conditions took that option away but it meant we had more time for more eating and drinking which seemed to suit us just great especially as Vito and the gang have caught a freezer full of stunning fish and they know how to cook it – wow did we eat well !

Thr 'fab 4' on the coast

 

I think Tina & Vito were the icing on the cake to an amazing experience. Our mission is to convince them to visit us in the UK so we can hopefully get to see them again before too long and return their wonderful hospitality.

Tina & Vito having a 'sunset moment'

Vito & Tina having a ‘sunset moment’ at home

Tina & Pauline having a 'girlie:wine' moment. Girlfriends rock!

Tina & Pauline having a ‘girlie:wine’ moment. Girlfriends rock!

 

Lakes / Roads / Goats

Pauline leading a climb at Grassi Lakes

Pauline leading a climb at Grassi Lakes

Our final day in Canmore and the Lake Louise area was spent at one of our favourite crags, Grassi Lakes. Why? The lakes! Crystal clear and translucent water which seemed to change with the weather, quite gorgeous. Oh, and the climbing was awesome too. Our boots seemed to stick to the rock and not a polished foot hold in the entire place. To celebrate the end of a good week I found it neccessary to go for a swim in the glacier lake….. for about 30 seconds! Chilly is an understaetment but it kept Phil giggling and the small crowd of trekkers on the beach as I obviously make all the noises any middle aged woman would make doing something that hurts with no need to hide the pain.

Phil managed to snap this shot of Pauline in Grassi Lake before she got out aft 5 seconds

Phil managed to snap this shot of Pauline in Grassi Lake before she got out aft 5 seconds

 

Back on the road and it was a gorgeous trip through to a small, and I mean small place called Slocan in the Kookenay National Park. The drive over had stunning scenery and due to the heat we had compulsory ice cream stop offs. We had to stop to sleep on the way over and unfortunately chose a mosquito night club. They doubled up as ninja mosquitos that managed to get into our van and chew us to bits for most of the night. The worst night sleep for both of us on this trip. However, by the time we got to Slocan all was forgotten as we pulled into a quite simply charming wooded, quiet and clean campsite where we slept like babies for 11 hours the next night.

Camp in front of Gimli Ridge

Camp in front of Gimli  South Ridge

Our goal in this area was to climb Gimli  South Ridge which is a North American Top 100 classic and a Fred Becky top 50 classic. It involved a 2 hours drive in on gravel/unpaved road, a 2 hour walk in, a camp, 8 pitch climb, long steep scramble descent. It was stunning! However, there were a few challenging aspects to our wee expedition. First we needed bear spray which meant Phil practicing his quick draw skills at camp. Next we needed to take Sheldon our beloved van, off -road knowing we are going to put him on the sale in a few weeks and he still had to get us back to Oregon. Finally, we had to buy chicken wire to protect Sheldon’s undercarriage from porcupines. This was not a problem, but watching Phil spend an hour building the equivalent of For Knox was a tad challenging after an hour.

The porcupines didn't have a chance

The porcupines didn’t have a chance

That all said, the drive in was nail biting but Phil did great and Sheldon only lost the runner from the side of the van on a big boulder that got in the way. No porcupines got to even sniff Sheldon’s under carriage and the worst encounter with wildlife we had was an all night sound track of wild goats as they chewed stones and jumped on the boulders right next to our tent from dusk till dawn. When we got up at 5am is when the goats decided to chill out and lie down. Phil just turned to all 6 of them and said ‘NOW! Now you decide to chill out?!’ Oh how I tittered.

the perfect outdoor loo with a view

the perfect outdoor loo with a view

 

 

enjoying the view from the loo

enjoying the view from the loo

 

 

 

 

 

The walk in through ancient forests was stunning and as we came up to the clearing we could see what all the fuss was about. We had the whole place to ourselves ( well apart from the goats). We had supper and the sunset was like fire in the sky. Gorgeous. Then the flies came so we retreated to our one man tent to get ‘cosy’.

camp at Gimli

camp at Gimli

Phil leading on Gimli

Phil leading on Gimli

Selfy on top

Selfy on top

going down

going down

sunset on GimliWe were up at 5am for breakfast and an early start as the day was forecast to be in the mid 30′s. The climb itself ranged in grades from 5.7 to 5.10a. Each pitch was perfect and the rock was bomber for hands and feet. The scramble down was steep, and loose underfoot but the walk back through the woods was lovely in the Alpine flowers. There was no denying, by the time we were back at Fort Knox, we were pretty tired. Just the drive out…..not quite as nail biting as the drive in but close and then we could taste the cold beer and feel the coolness of Slocan Lake for a swim. All this lovely daydreaming stopped when we were  15 km from the main road when we came to a wooden bridge that was there on the way up. It had gone and the construction workers were on the other side of the river. Oops. We can’t deny we had seen a warning sign that there would be work on the bridge but so had another 5 car loads of trekkers who had also chosen to risk it and ignore it. We had no air con in our van, we were in the middle of a forest and in a heat wave. OOPS!

oops, where has the bridge gone

oops, where has the bridge gone

A man came across the river in big boots and reflective jacket. He was so nice and of course I could hardly get cross at him, so I just saw the funny side of it with him. I think he was a bit surprised and thanked me for my sense of humour….now there’s a first, somebody liked my humour! He promised to have the bridge in a fit enough state to get across and out by early afternoon the next day. I just needed to break the news to Phil. He was remarkably cool about it as we both knew it was our own fault and set to work on making our mosquito door net a perfect fit. We had food, water and shelter plus a river. We ended up being really uncomfortable in the heat for a few hours and just sitting in the river which was not good for a swim but made a great setting for dinner as we sat on rocks and our feet in the water.

Two other cars turned up and left their cars there as they were more local than us so they got a lift or hitched out.

The next day came and true to his word, the bridge was ready for us to go across by 2pm. Glen, the boss had come and joined us for lunch and he too had a chevvy van and we had a good giggle about life and vans. He invited us to his home that was en route for us for a few beers that night. What a nice guy.

The art of log walking on Slocan Lake

The art of log walking on Slocan Lake

First stop after our night in the forest was Slocan Lake. What a fab place. This is not a town, more of a village spread over a mile square with the friendliest people on earth. They also have a beach at the head of a 27 mile long lake which is stunning with a log framed swimming area and dive board. There was always about 5 families there so never crowded. I had a presonal challenge to walk the length of the logs to the diving board without falling off. Phil and I tried but it was impossible to do without falling off as the logs roll but what a laugh trying. I was laughing ‘with’ Phil, not ‘at’ him honestly.  A 5 year old boy managed to prove me wrong as he almost skipped the length of the log giving me top tips at the same time!.

Having a great night with Glen and Ruth

Having a great night with Glen and Ruth

 

Next stop, a few beers at Glen’s place. Glen and his partner Ruth, who is an organic market gardener, lived in a stunning place by the Kootney River.  We arrived and immediately relaxed into their world…Phil didn’t even lock the van!!! We had a couple of cold beers and then wandered down to their beach on the river by their house. Glen casually said that they tend to go skinny dipping rather than bother with costumes. I immediately thought Phil would freak so by the time we were at the river, I was first to undress but leave my pants on to make sure Phil felt comfortable to do the same. As I was getting in, a naked man flashed past me and it was Phil! Well….. didn’t I feel the prude. So, here we were naked in a Canadian river with 2 near strangers, stunning scenery and a bald eagle flies over us and then an osprey. What a cool evening!

The night went on and the chat was non stop with two great people. Another lucky meeting and a chance to confirm how lovely people are in this part of the world.

We are now working our way back to Tina in Oregon on our final week of this amazing trip.

 

Hot / Cold / Rockies

Has a member of Team SKY gone AWOL in Canada?

Has a member of Team SKY gone AWOL in Canada?

We have had heat waves of upper 30′s followed by thunder storms with hail and a down pour. As we know, there is no such thing as bad weather….only bad gear. Despite that, we have managed to play every day as no weather condition seems to last too long….apart from the heat which saw us suffer a bit. Like anybody cares that we have suffered….we know!

Revelstoke campsite

Revelstoke campsite

Our stay in Revelstoke was en route to Banff and the Rockies along the Trans Canadian Highway  (TCH). Great stop off as the swimming, climbing and biking were great. Having a constant source of cold water to swim in was the best! We even did a couple of climbs that were virtually in the lake. You need to abseil down to the base of the climb from the top of the cliff and somebody has very kindly put a wooden ledge a couple of feet above the water as a platform to belay from. So the climbing was stunning both lake side and in the woods.

Phil at the base of Gilligan Islands' climb

Phil at the base of Gilligan Islands’ climb

The biking one night was your perfect Canadian scene with snow capped mountains, a lake and Alpine glow sunset. It also acted as a perfect recce for one of our camps. Did I mention the beer and crisps are becoming a necessary part of our evening, post exercise routine? Our other ride up Mt Revelstoke was great because it was in a Park area and closed to traffic after 6pm so we had it to oursleves. The down side was it was 27km uphill through the forests. Great downhill though!

Phil at the base of Gilligan Islands' climb

A Revelstoke ride

Phil enjoying our post excercise routine

Phil enjoying our post exercise supplements

Next stop Canmore, Banff and Lake Louise. We managed to find  camp next to  a herd of elk with at least 8 calves. They seemed very curious and hung out with us for most of the evening. The kids kicked off as we were going to sleep and their whining, which sounded like a squeaking door on steriods was comical……well for the first 20 mins then I just wanted to get them to have some Benidol. Lat week we fell to sleep to a pack of wolves that were either having a night out at karaoke or a big argument. What a great way to go to sleep, as long as you felt safe in a tin van.

our neighbours for the night...elk

our neighbours for the night…elk

The wild life continued with a close up sighting of a grizzly bear on one of our bike rides on Tunnel Mountain in Banff area and of course deer, goats and the ever ready chipmunks are everywhere. The bear was obviously my favourite and I stopped for 5 mins just to watch him…at a distance.

Bear from a bike....do they run fast?

Bear from a bike….do they run fast?

chipmonk - too cute to ignore

chipmunk – too cute to ignore

These deer do all this unroped!

These goats do all this unroped!

Who named this Lake?

Who named this Lake?

 

We did a great ride to Moraine Lake in Lake Louise and went climbing too. Both were absolutely stunning due to the colour and clarity of the water and the mountain backdrop.

Lake Louise walk-in to the crags

Morraine Lake

Compulsory lovey dovey photo at Morraine Lake

Compulsory lovey dovey photo at Morraine Lake

The climbing was by far the most pumpy so far so just as well it came at this stage in our trip but on great rock! Loved it!! I should just call Phil Popey.

Climbers on a neighbouring route in Lake Louise

Climbers on a neighbouring route in Lake Louise

Lake Louise - stunning

Lake Louise – stunning

The thousands of people that go through this area each day is amazing ( funny ehough they don’e feature in our photos) but somehow it doesn’t feel crowded outside the allocated viewing spots where the masses congregate. It is wonderful that everybody from toddler to zimmer can get access to these amazing scenic areas and those who want to find remoteness can do that too.

Thats it for now folks!

 

Big Climbs / Big Jumps / Big Heat

AHHH.....Pauline, Phil and Sheldon

AHHH…..Pauline, Phil and Sheldon

After 3 days of inclement weather in Squamish ( while the UK was basking in a heat wave), we were chomping at the bit to tick off a couple of our target climbs in Squamish before we hit the road again. Bingo! The first was Exasperator which is a stunning 2 pitch crack line on The Grand  Wall section of The Chief. We had both seen Lyn Hill climb it in a video and then it became a target. Phil looked as good ( if not better dare I say) as Lyn on the first pitch as he flew up without squealing once as he forced his toes into the delicate crack line. However, the second pitch was more challenging and a few grunts were heard in the valley. Obviously I made it look easy ( oh I love a top rope) and that convinced Phil to do it again and make it look even easier….which he did.  Competition is healthy?

Phil on Exasperator making it look easy

Phil on Exasperator making it look easy

 

I should explain what The Chief is. It is the largest and most imposing cliff face in this area and is the back drop to Squamish and the surrounding area. You can cilmb up the face or walk up the forested train from the back. So, our other big tick was to do one of the longest routes on The Chief by combining 3 sections together to take us from the valley floor to the top in 20 pitches. The two main routes were called Diedre and Squamish Lite. Early start to avoid the heat and 8 hours later we were on the top enjoying the views and energy bars in the sunshine.

Getting the kit ready for a long climb in the van

Getting the kit ready for a long climb in the van

Phil leading up Diedre

Phil leading up Diedre

20 pitches later and he looks ready for a Cliff bar or two!

20 pitches later and he looks ready for a Cliff bar or two!

Our last tick for Squamish was to catch up with my old mate Erik who is living and working in Vancouver as an animation director.ie in a world as far removed from us as you can imagine which made it even more fabulous.   He made the effort to come to Squamish where we ate and drank like we normally do and he didn’t complain once. That is how nice he is! Erik is part of my old London days before he left to live and work in LA at about the same time as I left for Wales. We had a great night and Phil and Erik bonded over Tour de France chat to the point I had to stop them both to get a word in edge ways. All I can say is ‘VIVRE Richi Port!’ I can’t move on without mentioning we are VERY proud of Erik as he won an Oscar for hiw work in Life of Pye/Pie.  He talks it down etc etc but we are going to big it up if only for our own credibility! A more down to earth over achiever would be hard to find. Vivre Erik!

3 AMIGOS, Erik, Pauline and Phil

3 AMIGOS, Erik, Pauline and Phil

Sheldon posing with The Chief as the backdrop

Sheldon posing with The Chief as the backdrop

Next stop…..WHISTLER BUNJEE! Yes, we are not ones for the commercial quick fix adrenalin adventure gimmicks. Not because we are purist adventure people but because we are tight. However, when I saw a great bunjee jumping opportunity and a strong £ to the $, I decided it was time to tick off one of my bucket list things to do. Yes, a bunjee jump. I think the pictures say it all although Phil give s a great rendition of a middle aged over excitable women getting ready to jump off a bridge. I LOVED IT!

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Then it was time to be back on the road to our enxt destination of Pemberton on the Trans Canadian Highway (TCH) aka Highway99.

The first thing we saw just as we were out of Whistler was a huge bear run across the highway! We have only seen 2 bears and both have been crossing the road!

When we arrived at Pemberton the heatwave had kicked in with temperatures in the high 30’s. We found an awesome campiste by the river which was an obvious place for a water fight….he started it!

camping by the river

camping by the river

We did a couple of good bike rides and the best was on Meadow Road which was 56km return. The road had a backdrop of snow capped mountains as we cycled past agricultural land and ranches. We only saw about about 4 vehicles but were part of about 40 bike riders. We had only just started when a fit bloke past us and Phil took the opportunity to catch his tail and draft him. He stayed with him to the turning point when he was able to use me as an excuse to stop. He stayed with him the whole way which was not bad as he was in his final stages of training for an iron man. We know this because was able to find enough breath to ask him some questions, thankfully he seemed to give long answers. Good ride but when we stopped the heat hit us big time so we packed up and got back to the river asap.

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Currently driving, climbing and swimming our way to Revelstoke. We need to use our cheap air conditioning in the van in these temperatures. This means stopping every hour to jump in a lake or river to cool down and then drive in our wet clothes. It works quite well.

Our air conditioning system is fuelled by swimming in lakes and rivers where we can

Our air conditioning system is fuelled by swimming in lakes and rivers where we can

The scenery has been spectacular and wild but the heat has menat we didn’t hang around too long to enjoy the view points. We managed to get up early to climb at Marble Craggs and have a swim before 10am and then wim and drive the rest of the day. Can’t complain.

Until the next update……

 

Canada /Squamish/Whistler

Doing athletic things on the Olympic rings in Whistler. Phil did pull ups while I was happy to hold my own body weight!

Doing athletic things on the Olympic rings in Whistler. Phil did pull ups while I was happy to hold my own body weight!

We have been based in Squamish this last week which is another outdoor mecca.  Kite surfing, mountain biking and climbing with Whistler only 30 mins away for skiing and mnt biking too plus all that quick fix adrenalin stuff like bunje jumping, bob sleigh experiences and everything I would pay lots of money for if Phil wasn’t holding the holiday kitty. He is so good for me. We would only last 4 weeks out of 3 months if it was left to me.

Our evenings have been spent watching kitesurfers

Our evenings have been spent watching kitesurfers

We have based ourselves in Squamish for the climbing which is just everywhere and so well managed that there are great trails to the crags with sign posts and even bneches to belay from! Cool! We have had some timely but compluslory rest days due to the rain that periodically comes in. Meanwhile the UK is in a heatwave!

Our evenings have been spent watching kitesurfers

Loving the cracks!

Pauline contemplating a climb in the unbelievably comfortable belay bench at Squamish...we do 5 star here!

Pauline contemplating a climb in the unbelievably comfortable belay bench at Squamish…we do 5 star here!

We have ticked off about 10 of the top 100 climbs in this area including a lovely one called Sky Walker which ends 100m short of mid way up Shannon Falls. Great place to finish.

Which way to the beach Phil? He is actually posing with a 200ft drop behind him straight down Shannon Falls....dude!

Which way to the beach Phil? He is actually posing with a 200ft drop behind him straight down Shannon Falls….dude!

Pauline blending into Shannon Falls

Pauline blending into Shannon Falls

Squamish is about the size of Aviemore with all the action taking place on thier main High Street. Ther is always a parade or event going on….really. Last week saw the Sikh Parade to celebrate the martydom of their great guru ( ok I have forgotten his name but forgive me). Anyway, one half of a field was Caucasian white, Bohemian Farmers Market and the other half was like walking into India. Brilliant as the harmony was evident. The other great thing for us was that all the food on the Sikh side was FREE. Unfortunately I was not hungry enough to do justice to the fab food but Phil rescued me and had enough for both of us. Bless.

The smell and colours were fabulous....and all the food and drinks was free!!!

The smell and colours were fabulous….and all the food and drinks was free!!!

Every Sikh parade needs this man. Awesome dude.

Every Sikh parade needs this man. Awesome dude.

That night we went up to Whistler for a concert in the Olympic Plaza. Brilliant….guess what…..it was a country & Western night! Phil and I were stoked dude! The band was absolutely brilliant so you can imagine Phil and I were thigh slapping most of the evening. Gues what….it was a FREE concert. It is like we are not meant to pay for anything.

You had Dolly at Glastonbury, we had these guys in Whistler

You had Dolly at Glastonbury, we had these guys in Whistler

Whistler is a very ‘rich’ place and in total contrast to Squamish. Each weekend there is an array of street performers in the village which range from face painting to full on theatrical displays. Mini     Disney World really……oh yeh….all FREE! Can you feel a theme being built here?

This guy did things with balloons you can't imagine!

This guy did things with balloons you can’t imagine!

Phil 'BUYING' North Face gear!!!!! Even the slaes girl thought it was funny

Phil ‘BUYING’ North Face gear!!!!! Even the slaes girl thought it was funny

 

 

 

A lucky chance meeting with Crystal and Uni

A lucky chance meeting with Crystal and Uni

Squamish is an international place but it was still a great surprise to bump into Crystal and Uni at the Adventure Centre. It turned into an afternoon of coffee and speed chat before they had to take off on thier road trip. They are a great fun couple to meet even briefly.

Did they know Phil was coming?

Did they know Phil was coming?

We only have 5 weeks left and we know what we need kit wise so we decided Squamish was the best place to sell off everything else. Dirt bag climbers congregate here for the summer and always love a bargain. Phil turned into a marketing and retail guru. We put flyers all around the campsite and it seemed to work. We based oursleves there for 2 hours and hard sell Phil style and I looked after the cash. He is a natural! It ended up being a good social with loads of great folk who gave us money for things we don’t need any more. Perfect! Everyone was a winner.

Phil in 'hard sell' mode

Phil in ‘hard sell’ mode

Pauline in 'take the cash' mode

Pauline in ‘take the cash’ mode

Not much road biking but enough to do a good spin with a careful eye out for any bears.

It is raining today so blog and coffee mode……happy days.

Thats it folks

 

 

 

 

BUVARIA & PACIFIC COAST

 

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BUVARIA & PACIFIC COAST

Levenworth aka Buvaria

Levenworth aka Buvaria

Since the last update we have been to Buvaria. Yes a small town in Washington called Leavenworth calls itself ‘Mini Buvaria’ and they have reason. The whole town, and I mean every aspect of it, is styled as if it was in Buvaria. Even the costumes worn by waitresses and shop keepers. It is like a Disney town but for real. The novelty value was huge as we felt that we were back in Europe, especially on a bike ride when we had the Alpine backdrop of mountains and then ride into town with fresh smells of sausage sour crout. Extrordinary.

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We were there for a European car Convention which was happening throughout the town. Every style of European car was welcome and Phil laughed as he saw a supped up version of a family saloon getting loads of street cred. There were loads of men taking countless photos and video footage. of this gathering . Phil and I sat with an ice cream watching them and I have to admit, having a bit of a giggle at them. Why video a car boot? We started talking to 3 young men who were part of it. I needed to know what was so fascinating and before we knew it we were laughing joking and getting the full education on why people go to such lengths to get to these gatherings.  They were 3 of the nicest guys and by the end of it we were in each others photos – we were European after all – and if they hadn’t had to get back home that night I feel  a night of beers was on the table. So I had to slap myself for not following my own advice ie never judge a book by its cover.

Our young car fanatic pals

Our young car fanatic pals

The bike rides were great in this area too with lots to go at away from the madding crowds and again we felt a bit of Europe as we cycled through vinyards galore as this area is fast becoming the winery HQ of Washington.

Lovely spot for dinner by Icicle River

Lovely spot for dinner by Icicle River

The climbing was vast too and we did a few Becky classics including one on Castle Rock . We got some more crack action in which always seems to leave us battered and aching….technique maybe?

Phil leading the way on Castle Rock

Phil leading the way on Castle Rock

Pauline following her leader on Castle Rock

Pauline following her leader on Castle Rock

Icicle Canyon offered a 'cool' climbing venue :)

Icicle Canyon offered a ‘cool’ climbing venue

After a week of Euro style life we moved to the Pacific Ocean and based ourselves for a stunning long weekend near Mt Erie next to the San Juan islands. Stunning climbing and biking in goreous weather.  Not much to add other than …LOVED IT!

Too tired to pose after Mt Erie ascent

Too tired to pose after Mt Erie ascent

After a day climbing on the coast

After a day climbing on the coast

TREES, BEER AND VIEWS...HAPPY!

TREES, BEER AND VIEWS…HAPPY!

 

 

We left for Canada but stopped of at MT Baker so we could cycle up it which was a great workout. We are now in Squamish, Canada and we saw our first bear within 24 hours of being here….super cool!!!!!

Off to change the washing to the dryer so till next time!!!!

Blue Grass / Fly Fishing & Rodeo Season!

 

 

Our mini domestic world.

Our mini domestic world.

This is a short and sharp attempt by me to put the last 10 days into bullet form before my washing is done. Yes mum…… I can feel your pride that we do wash our clothes!

Well, we could not leave the Sisters, Bend & Smiths area because we got a bit too comfortable with everything being convenient, hot and free! So we ended up staying for 3 full weeks which was not our original intention but that is the joy of ‘no agenda’.

Anyway – how did we fill our time? Biking, climbing, fishing and live music!

Our mini domestic world.

snow walls on McKenzie Pass

The road biking here is great especially on the dedicated scenic routes. One of those is McKenzie Pass that runs from Sisites Coffee Shop ( our HQ) to the top of the Pass and is closed to road traffic other than bikes until mid June. Fantastic! Our first ride on it was on a weekend with about another hundred plus  road bikers enjoying the views and fact we were kings of the road! It is closed to cars because the snow is still there but they have cleared it enough for bikes.  We saw, families, old people, recumbent, bikes, bikes heavily laden with panniers, top of the range time trial bikes and athletes and even a mono cyclist go up and down this 30 mile road. All of them were as friendly and cheery as if it was a festival. We spoke to several folk at the top who had been to Scotland too. One of them said it didn’t rain the whole week!

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Our other favourite route was up and down a quiet, scenic road that runs by the Crooked River from Prineville to the Prineville Reservoir. We saw fly fishing in scenes straight from the movie ‘A River Runs Through It” . In that film Brad Pitt does for fly fishing, what Steve McQueen for motorbikes in the Great Escape……or am I just attracted to blond blue eyed hunks?

Crooked River route

Crooked River route

Sisters is also the place we heard about a local Barn hosting a live folk music night with multi talented musicians. So we went. Stunning location on a working ranch  with the Cascade mountains as a backdrop. No sooner had we got out of Sheldon ( our van) than we were having a laugh with a guy from Bend who loves road biking.  His wife was a local musician and singer and they were our mates for the night. It was impossible to feel less than a local due to the fact that everybody talks to you all the time. I had a great laugh with a lady at the portaloo J. However, when the music started I saw Phil’s face go from elated and happy to uneasy and uncomfortable. The first song saw everybody clapping and swaying to what could have been described as a ‘happy clappy’ kind of song. Phil thought we had inadvertently found ourselves in the middle of some remote religious cult. Oh how I laughed as I rocked and clapped with the masses. As it was we were absolutely fine. They were all as normal and in the vast majority, as old as we were. The musicians were talented but not honestly our kind of music. Unlike another night we had in Bend at a local bar with Blue Grass music which had us tapping, clapping and smiling all night. Brilliant! The lead singer had toured Scotland and Ireland so we had a good chat. The joy of a small town bar.

Live at the Barn

Live at the Barn

As for the climbing -  hot in the day so early or late was the order of the day. We got a few crack climbs in and repeated lots of our favourites from the last time we were here. Nothing new to report. Just a great place to climb.

Live at the Barn

Smiths Rock

Fly-fishing……. Our friend and qualified personal trainer Lou Ramsay, has told us that it is now encouraged to have a ‘recovery sport’ so we are very current in our training regime. The fact that we don’t really over do any of our activities enough to warrant too much recovery time may mean we have gone a bit far in our approach to a new hobby. However, our age is coming into play and the thought of being in a gorgeous place doing something less active but challenging is now very appealing. We can now go and play with our mates Steve and Giles in Aviemore and Baz in the Lakes…….hooray I hear them say J

Our teacher Tay from Confluence Fishing in Bend

Our teacher Tay from Confluence Fishing in Bend

We took a 3 hour lesson from a local shop Confluence, in Bend and Tay was fantastic. That was an invaluable and inspirational 3 hours. We obviously bought one set of intro  kit between the two of us becausw we are tight but then managed to find a second hand set for $30 which I have adopted as I like it more.

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Is this Brad of Phil?!

We practiced our casting in the town park – that looked normal…not. When we actually got to the Crooked River and camped there it was perfect. Phil was casting when I turned to look at him. It could have been Brad! Needless to say we have caught nothing yet but Phil nearly got one. The fact that the fly was literally touching the trout’s face as Phil dangled a fly  right in front of him, probably meant he recognised the 6ft shadow hanging over him with a rod as a sign not to bight. Watching Phil’s body move with the rod as he tried to tease it with his fly was hilarious. It would have been more effective to get a stick and whack it over the head. It was only a few inches away from the bank where he was standing.

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So, our new hobby is full of potential adventures as we pass through some meccas for fishing. Watch this space. I can guarantee the first fish we catch will be photographed a lot!

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Then came our final night in Sisters and to end our time with a bang, we finished with the first night of the Sisters Rodeo. An evening of cowboys and cowgirls and bull riding. Yee ha! We have been to several rodeos now and it all felt familiar  especially as I had my appropriate hat on. I do like to fit in.

Pose? Me ?

Pose? Me ?

 

See you at our next wash!

Back on the Rock & Road Tour USA! Yee Ha dudes!

BACK ON THE ROAD!

 

Golden Gate Bridge on a blue sky day

Golden Gate Bridge on a blue sky day

 

Back on the road! It has been nearly a year since we left our beloved Sheldon (our campervan) with Tina in Oregan. Needless to say between Tina’s support team and the awesome vehicle that Sheldon is……he was as good as a 30 year old campervan should be ie style machine on wheels!

However, before we get to picking up the van, I must share our first experience of San Francisco. Phil and I are not great city magnets, but San Francisco has appealed to both of us for years so before we started our gypsy life again we stopped in this great city for a couple of nights.  I had pre-booked a funky B&B and a taxi pick-up. We were not disappointed with either. Our taxi driver was a heavily tattooed and pieced lady called Reese who was a part time musician and was as enthusiastic as any Bohemian loving citizen of this eclectic city should be. Despite feeling shattered after our long flight, by the time we arrived at destination, Reese had been so entertaining, I could have gone out for the night!

Golden Gate Bridge on a blue sky day

Golden Gate Bridge on a blue sky day

We stayed in a traditional city house with all the glory of its relatively bygone years embodied in the colours and features of every crack and of course on an incredibly steep street. Judith, our host had decorated in a style that I would if I had taste and could do that kind of thing. It  is full of interesting things to see, feel and smell from the fairy lights up the stairs to the original pieces of art and artefacts from around the world. Awesome.  The fact the house itself was yellow and blue on the outside was one of the reasons we booked it. We enjoyed home made bread and fresh coffee on the deck overlooking the  distant but neighbouring city and harbour while still being immersed in the heart of a terraced houses. Brilliant.

We set off on our tourist day on bus, tram, underground and finally a boat that took us around Alcatraz and under the Golden Gate Bridge. We were lucky with the weather……everybody kept telling us that. It was a blue sky day but the Bridge still gets covered in the fog from the Pacific. We were lucky enough to get stunning views the whole way, apart from when we had our twee  ‘couple’ photo taken under the Bridge when the fog came in and dominated our backdrop.  We are obviously not meant to be ‘twee’.

We walked the town for the rest of the day and wore ourselves out completely. All good stuff between China Town and the Hippie District where Bob Marley’s image would turn in its own stonework if he could see the capitalist profiteering going on in his name. A street full of retro clothes shops punctuated by ‘smoke’ shops. There is a feeling for the 60’s peace and love but it all has a price tag and those days will probably never come back and feel authentic again, with or without ‘smoke’.

We were staying in Neo Valley, a once trendy area but now a yuppie and cool area. The  next morning we had time for some cool café culture along a road that was fun to people watch.  Young, old, funky, cool and everything in the middle. Where did we fit in? In conclusion, we think SF is a stunning city that is small enough to be fun and the feel and look is not overwhelming and certainly not disappointing.

Golden Gate Bridge on a blue sky day

Golden Gate Bridge on a blue sky day

Next stop….Tina! We flew to Eugene from SF but our flight was cancelled and we ended up having a free night in a nice hotel with widescreen TV….. happy Phil. When we did arrive in Eugene, there was Tina with her big smile, big car and huge welcome as ever. We spent the afternoon going around Eugene Market which was brilliant and more in tune with what I expected from the hippy part of San Francisco and judging from the aged hippies free styling to some live jazz music, maybe this is where they all moved to when free love stopped in the big city.

Pauline making friends with a lady's pet chameleon at the market

Pauline making friends with a lady’s pet chameleon at the market

The market had the biggest collection of hand made goods I had seen in a long time and I managed to meet a cute pet camilion by talking to a lady who had it crawling on her head.  I love that people are different!

We stopped off at a micro brewery on the way home to test the goods and very fine they are too judging from how much we were talking…..Phil. Tina and Vito invited their fishing gang over on the Sunday so we could meet their world and what a great bunch of folk they are too. We laughed for most of the afternoon and finished with a card game that made Phil say things I would never have imagined only hours before……very funny!

local wildlife - aka alpaca

local wildlife – aka alpaca

Then it was time to say our goodbyes as we drove off to Smiths Rock for some down time. I can honestly say I have not felt this tired at the start of a trip so the first week has been pretty mellow. I haven’t even picked up the camera much. However, we have found some free camping in some bush area away from the road,  cheap showers, stunning bike rides and of course the climbing is just perfect.  As a bonus we saw a bald eagle carrying a fish as we just finished a climb. Good start to the week.

Sheldon and Phil enjoying a mellow evening in some desert like bush area we found...free camping!

Sheldon and Phil enjoying a mellow evening in some desert like bush area we found…free camping!

We have adopted Sisters as our favourite town this time. It is small enough to be friendly and big enough to have some fun things going on but their Coffee House is awesome and we all know how café culture is a big part of our trip. We are loving the lazy morning starts and slow evening sunsets. I am sure I will speed up again soon…..but no rush.

 

That’s it for now folks

 

Awesome 4some in Chile and Argentina

What a great trip! Pauline and Phil went to explore the road biking potential in Chile and Argentina for a month. They managed to talk two good friends ( aka masochists) into joining them, Lucy Noble and Craig Tweedie.

Just to get the big picture, Chile and Argentina are not third world countries so the road systems were expected to be pretty good…which they were. It was  the sections that joined the good roads that caused the interest. There are travel companies that already provide road biking packages but they have support vehicles to pick up and collect the guests and their bikes between sections. Pauline and her merry gang were on a self support trip carrying all they needed with them and going from one hostel to the next. This meant for interesting ‘road’ biking on the gravel and unbuilt sections of road between Chile and Argentina. They learnt new ‘off road skills’ and lost any natural inclination to be precious with their  road bikes as they negotiated rocks, ditches and pot holes for the 60km section through the Andes into Argentina.

However, where the roads were good…they were amazing! The views, the volcanos, the mountains, rivers and lakes were spectacular as they made their way from the Lake District in Chile to the equivalent in Argentina and back through the Andes via boat and bike into the islands of Chile via ferry and bike.

A successful and inspirational trip was experienced by all with over 1500 photos and lots of laughter. They are a team that love to enjoy local produce and so enjoyed a few bottles of local wine  and beer( in each area) , ice cream and chocolate in Bariloche and the best shell fish and traditional platter in Chiloe – the largest island in Chile.

Their main comment was how wonderfully welcoming the local people were. Everybody was helpful and had a smile and wave to greet them both young, old as they cycled through these wonderful countries. People maketh the journey.

 

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Yellowstone, Tetons & Shoot Outs

Phil and Yogi having a moment by Yellowstone Lake. Yogi's name was inspired by the famous bear from this area.  Emotional!

Phil and Yogi having a moment by Yellowstone Lake. Yogi’s name was inspired by the famous bear from this area. Emotional!

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Leaving a small town like Ten Sleep meant the only was was bigger! Cody is world renowned for Shoot Outs and Buffallo Bill but we  were there a bit too early in the season for it all to be kicking off and the town felt a bit sad and empty for its size. However, we are sure that in season it would be buzzing but for us, the Cody charm wasn’t drawing us in and we only spent enough time there to get a feel for the place, a coffee and a brief climb at a local crag – not aesthetically pleasing but did the job.

So Yellowstone was our next port of call despite the fact the weather not being at its best. So, we drove into Yellowstone and arrived at our northerly campsite near the main wildlife area. The weather on the drive in was gorgeous and we got the best views and feel of the place that night.

Yellowstone is somewhere that needs to be experienced by hiking, fishing or on horseback. The bike was not recommended by 3 different sources, as people driving RV’s and the general public are so busy looking at the scenery and wild life that there are regular incidents. Once we saw the roads, we reaslised exactly what they meant so we became tourists in the true sense of the word and drove around the main areas, stopping at the look out areas and posing for photos. It seemed so much more exhausting than cycling everywhere. We have to admit, we prefer cycling or climbing in a place as it makes you feel like you have connected with the area –oh that was deep!

Yellowstone Grand Canyon

Yellowstone Grand Canyon

Anyway, we saw the rear end of a brown bear which lasted 20 seconds as the ranger spent 2 minutess telling us to ‘not look at the bear for too long’. Work out the maths on that one! We saw buffalo and the famous geysers which seem to time there natural outbursts to compliment the tourist flow, namely 2 times per hour with a 10 min variation. How convenient.

Old Faithful Inn

Old Faithful Inn

The Old Faithful Hotel was as impressive as the geysers as it is made from knobbly wood and is still the biggest log structure in the world with amazing features such as the giant clock and fire place and it is fantastic! Worth looking around and it is booked up for a year in advance, not that we are planning on staying but we like to look interested in how the other half live.

Geysers everywhere. Pity we couldn't have a bath in one.....for everybody's sake

Geysers everywhere. Pity we couldn’t have a bath in one…..for everybody’s sake

We found that 24 hours of being a truck bound tourist was enough for us and we headed for the Tetons. WOW! We love the Tetons!! Amazing mountain range that overlook the flat meadows and rivers in the valley with more moose and buffalo than I dreamed possible. We had only planned an over night stay but couldn’t resist staying longer when we heard our friends were in town and the bike routes and climbing were fabulous and the weather changed to ‘perfect’…..fate was calling us.

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Cowboys will never stop shooting at each other in Jackson

Cowboys will never stop shooting at each other in Jackson

The benefits of staying longer in any area mean we get the feel of a town, in this case Jackson Hole, which include shoot outs by cowboys (the cowboys were corny but entertaining), country dancing to a local band (we were corny but entertaining) and of course soaking up the art galleries ( all 27) and café culture.

 

 

The Law still has 4 legs in this area

The Law still has 4 legs in this area

The Millionaire Cowboy Bar was a ‘must do’ for tourists, so we did it and it involved sitting on western horse saddles at the bar. It was all I could do to stop Phil pretending he was on a bucking bronco – oh how he craves public attention – but he did drag me out onto the dance floor much faster than I anticipated once the band came on – how will I ever get him to adjust back to Radio 2 and ‘popular music’?

Phil getting into the cowboy mood and the nearest he will get to riding a horse.

Phil getting into the cowboy mood and the nearest he will get to riding a horse.

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This area has invested millions of dollars on safe new bike routes which go for miles and miles. We went from our fantastically scenic campsite, which seemed to host its own local herd of buffalo and moose, all the way to Lake Jenny at the foothills of the Grand Teton. Awesome!

Cycling to Lake Jenny

Cycling to Lake Jenny

 

Cycling past buffalo on the road with their young was novel for the first time and became normal really fast but never less than fantastic. Another route took us into ranch country with massive gates and entry areas which made you think that JR had influence outside Texas as every ranch entrance was HUGE. Quiet roads, great scenery and the odd cowgirl/boy on horse back.

Team Sky rider Phil Sanderson showing us how to 'chill' between training sessions

Team Sky rider Phil Sanderson showing us how to ‘chill’ between training sessions

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We also got some great climbing in, the best route being on The Guides Wall. We walked in from Jenny’s Lake for an hour plus and true Scottish conditions kicked in.

Walking into the Guides Wall

Walking into the Guides Wall

Walking into the Guides Wall

Walking into the Guides Wall

 

 

It was cold with the skies threatening most of the time but we managed to keep above freezing so that worked for us. There was a local team ahead of us who were fun but shivered their way up, ( softies). It always makes route finding easy having fast moving locals ahead of you. At the end of the climb we walked back down to the lake in time to get one of the last boats back across the to the car park. Always a joy to short cut a route home and it was sunny! Hooray. Good day.

Jackson Hole Gang - Rex, Phil, Pat and Jack

Jackson Hole Gang – Rex, Phil, Pat and Jack

Then to finish off a great time in Jackson we met up with our pals Jack and Pat Tackle and Rex whom we had originally met in Spain 2 years ago. We met up in a stunning bar with huge windows overlooking the Tetons, gorgeous food and the largest variety of Scottish whiskey we have seen over here. Phil was on form! Needless to say we had a great night and our friendships with our Yanky mates continues to grow.

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We made a dash for Oregan to make sure we got to see our mate Whit in Baker City for a couple of nights but managed to stop off for the night en route in another climbing mecca called City of Rocks in Idahoe. We arrived about 7 pm after being on the road all day but managed to get one route in before sunset. Great way to have a stretch. It was a bit of a recce trip for the next time we are in these parts. Then off to Whit who greeted and entertained us with culture, hikes and of course a wee bit of alcohol. We visited Baker Museum where we were into everything now that I am fascinated by the Pioneers but we all spent an extra bit of time in the Jest Stream display where we read and saw how these iconic camper vans first started – we are a bit geeky on the whole camper thing, just in case you haven’t noticed.

 

First Friday in Baker is when the art galleries host open evenings and free food and wine – oh yeh! We went to all three and ate and drank at all three but more importantly LOVED some of the art and met loads of Whit’s fan club and what a great bunch they are. So diverse. Joel is over 80 and has never been abroad and reared cattle and children all her life. She is an absolute hoot to be with and had me laughing non stop and her beef is to die for.

Phil chatting about how it felt to artificially inseminate 35 000 cows

Phil chatting about how it felt to artificially inseminate 35 000 cows

The nicest ever – sorry mum. Then there was Steve who has lived all over the world working on conservation and then there were the Cooke family who now make wine having moved on from cattle but stunned us with the fact he went to Russia for a month last year to be part of a team that artificially inseminated over 35 000 cows in 30 days…..that has to be a record! So as you can tell we were not bored at all.

Pauline and Whit enjoying a hike in his local hills

We went for a hike into the hills where Whit had his ranch and met the man who is buying it from him. He has moved in and he and his wife and new baby are moving from Switzerland to start a dude ranch and there is a reality show from Germany that is following his progress so Whit is now going to be famous in Europe too. He is a great guy and Whit could not have wanted to find a better person with all the skills to take on his beloved ranch.

 

We managed to grab a couple of days back in Smiths Rock to finish off some unfinished business and it felt surprisingly nostalgic to be back in the place that we started our trip in earnest last year. We did the occasion proud by climbing Zion and the Monkey Face. Both classics of the area and we do love a good classic.

Phol on the first belay of Zion

Phil on the first belay of Zion above and on the summit of the Monkey Face below

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I have to fast track this last blog as we are flying back home in 2 days and I know I will not do it if I don’t do it now. We are going sea fishing with Tina and Vito this weekend before we fly out and what a great way to finish our 8 month (out of 12) trip ie with the friends we made on our first day here.

More to follow if I get round to it.