Pacific National Exhibition (PNE), Mom Visits

Summer has begun its slow end — the Pacific National Exhibition opened this weekend. I can only assume that its Toronto counterpart, the Canadian National Exhibition, also started this weekend. As back home in Ontario, the opening of the PNE is a reminder that the summer is much shorter than we all think.

Allison and woke up Saturday morning, and decided that we would go to the opening day of the PNE. I had never been to the opening day of the Ex (CNE) in Toronto, let alone even been to the PNE, so I thought it would make for an interesting day.

Following our brunch of breakfast burritos (scrambled eggs, black bean salsa, and some cheddar cheese wrapped up in a tortilla shell), we headed out for the Shopper’s Drug Mart. We understood we could buy passes there to the PNE. As it turned out we could only buy passes to Playland, which is the amusement park portion to the fair — and it was a lot more expensive than we thought.

Nevertheless, we boarded the Skytrain to the 29th Avenue station, and took the PNE Express bus to the fair. When we got to the gate, we found that instead of buying the standard $6 ticket, we could buy a $15 dollar ticket that would get us into Cirque Parasol, a Cirque du Soliel rip-off. (There are a few of these roaming about, all trying to get their own pieces of the pie.) Thinking that this was a good idea, we put out the extra cash, and wandered in.

Our first stop was the farm show, or more specifically, the farm animals. This is the last remaining part of the agricultural beginnings behind the PNE (the CNE in Toronto has a similar background). We viewed the endless lines of cows, goats, sheep, llamas (yes, llamas), chickens, and so forth. Unlike previous years (in Toronto, that is), this excursion began to bother me. I realised that all the animals in the barns were destined for a future in the slaughterhouse.

Perhaps it’s conditioning from having lived here, and been exposed to a more left-wing environment (Ontarioans don’t think twice about things like this). But eating vast quantities of meat (particularly red meat) actually begin to make me feel a bit ill.

Exiting the animal show, we began to wander about the fair grounds. Although we had bought tickets to Playland (the amusement park portion of the PNE), we opted not to go on it that day, preferring to look about the PNE itself. We caught a showing of Superdogs, a staged show put on by Technikal (a dog food manufacturer), which sends pooches of all sizes down a runway and over a wall (made of hollow plastic tubes, just in case the dog doesn’t make it). It’s the most popular thing to see at the PNE.

After venturing around most of the PNE grounds, we went into the Dream Home. Every year, for about 80 years or so, the PNE has had a Dream Home contest. You buy tickets to attempt to win an amazing home, containing every luxury one can think of. This is the house I want. When we come back the next time, I intend to buy enough tickets to win it.

Shortly thereafter, we had dinner at the smokiest place in the PNE — the barbecue chicken stand. A bad idea. Following dinner, we headed over to Cirque Parasol. It was an amazing show, considering we paid only $9 for it. It was hardly to the calibre of Cirque du Soleil (see [[Road Trip of the Southwest United States, Touring Las Vegas and Cirque du Soleil Mystére]]), but it was still pretty good.

When we got out of the show, it was almost 9:30, and time for Chilliwack to play. Chilliwack is one of a hundred Canadian bands that probably never would have hit it big without the Canadian Content rule imposed by the CRTC. Without that rule, I never would have heard of Chilliwack, let alone remember over half the songs we heard. It was kinda eerie.

Following the concert was a fireworks display. Compared to the Symphony of Fire, it was pathetic. But it was much longer than the Canada Day fireworks display. That was annoying. It wasn’t well organised, and it had no lead-up to the end before finishing by setting off every last firework they had. Following the works, it was time to go home and rest.

The following morning, we had to go pick up my mother and grandmother (whom I refer to as Nana) from the airport. They were coming in to take a cruise out of Vancouver and up through Alaska. We rose a little later than I had hoped, and very hastily cleaned the apartment. Then we hauled out the door, and headed for Richmond. I figured we would be a little late. We more than likely saw mom’s plane land, followed shortly thereafter by Nana’s.

When we arrived at the airport, they weren’t there. Allison and I hunted through the arrival lounge without being able to spot them. Of course, there was a reason for this. First of all, mom arrived through a different gate, and wound up in a different area to accept her luggage. Nana required assistance getting off the plane (she has had her hip and one of her knees replaced, so she doesn’t get around very easily anymore), and took a bit longer to arrive. Allison and I forgot to mention that we had been late in arriving…

After picking up their luggage, we headed back to the car and out of the airport. We stopped in at the Milestone’s restaurant on No. 3 Road in Richmond for brunch/lunch/whatever. There we had a long talk about just about anything, but mostly how home was, how other relatives were, and so forth. Following lunch, it was time to show them where we lived.

This was somewhat worrisome for me. You see, there is only one bed in the apartment. I hoped that Nana wouldn’t be offended or anything like that. Luckily, she wasn’t…

The conversation resumed, and we started discussing other matters. Then I found out, much to my horror, that my Uncle David had sold the cottage in Waskesiu. I was completely shocked and crestfallen. Although he did sell it to an old family friend that we could probably borrow it from, the luxury of just going was now gone. I felt like a part of my childhood had been ripped away. I had so looked forward to going back, but now that was a distant dream.

Finally, we jumped back in the car and took them down to the Pan Pacific Hotel. We found out, much to our chagrin, that we could not yet check them into their room, because the room wasn’t ready yet. So we took a voucher for free drinks and sat in the lounge for a while, watching cruise ships depart and sail out of the harbour.

When the room became available, we went upstairs and relaxed their for a while. It was a huge room, surpassing the size of our apartment. We watched a few more cruise ships exit the harbour (they all enter in the mornings) and listened to Enya on the in-suite stereo. After an hour or so, we opted for dinner.

The in-house restaurants weren’t exactly cheap, but they weren’t over-priced either. Besides, neither Allison or I were paying. The conversation, as you can guess, continued. We talked all through dinner and dessert, until finally it was time to call it a night. Mom was three hours ahead of us, and exhausted. Nana wasn’t too far off from falling asleep either. We bid them a good night and a safe trip, and went home … after being robbed when we paid the unbelieveably high prices for the parking.

Long Weekend in Kelowna, Penticton

This weekend just passsed was the BC Day long weekend (for those of you back in Ontario, that’s a fancy way of naming the Civic Holiday) — we get the first monday in August off to enjoy the weather and get out a little more than we usually do. We took the opportunity to visit my relatives in Kelowna.

I dropped Allison at work on Friday morning, on the intention to pick her up Friday afternoon so we could leave Vancouver immediately. This didn’t work exactly to plan, because Allison ended up starving all day due to lack of money with which to buy lunch. We ended up postponing our departure until after we’d eaten.

Then it was down Knight St. in Richmond to the 99 East, under the intention to cross the Annacis Island bridge, down to Highway 10, turning to Highway 1, finally ending at Route 1 (aka the Trans-Canada Highway). The only problem was that I missed the turn-off for the bridge, thus setting us back about 10 minutes. (And after all the problems I had with Los Angeles a week earlier, I wasn’t feeling particularly good about it.)

Route 1 was packed in a few places with morons slowing down traffic for no good reason (like there’s such a thing as a good reason), but soon we were whistling our way east. After an hour or so, Allison and I had to stop to make use of a washroom. Regretibly, there were no washrooms available … we had to make use of the local foliage to disguise ourselves.

Climbing back into the car, I glanced at the fuel gauge … it was at less than 1/8 of a tank. I had left with over half a tank, thinking that it would be enough for the trip. I had never driven my car through the mountains before, and I was beginning to think that my car was going to be a little more trouble than I would have liked.

By the time we arrived at the Coquihalla Toll booth, I was worried. My stomach was knotted, and I really didn’t want to hear what Allison would say if we had run out of gas. Fortunately, I do have BCAA (the BC version of AAA), but when you’re stuck in the middle of nowhere and your significant other is breathing fire, you really can’t defend yourself with a tiny piece of plastic.

I asked the toll attendant where the nearest gas station was, foolishly assuming there would be one nearby. “Lessee, that would probably be Merritt, about 16 kilometres away.” That is what I heard. This is not quite what she said. I figured out what she said a few minutes later, when I saw a sign that said: Merritt 62km.

I about had a heart attack. Allison was going to kill me if I ran out of gas. For the next 45 minutes, I used every trick in the book to keep from running out of fuel: Travelling at 90km/h, shifting into neutral when going downhill (periodically running the risk of getting a speeding ticket at the same time), and not slamming my foot on the gas pedal. I breathed a very audible sigh of relief when we arrived in Merritt under our own power.

Allison was annoyed that I hadn’t told her, but she was quick to point out that it was a no-win scenario for me — she would’ve been peeved no matter what had happened, so I got lucky in that she was only annoyed, and not ready to deprive me the ability to reproduce.

After fuelling up, we stopped at the A&W so we could get something to drink (we were thirsty) and so I could call Aunt Alaine and Uncle Dave and let them know we were running late. They didn’t seem too surprised, and I told them we’d be about an hour and a half late. They seemed to concur with that estimate.

We arrived at their door about 23:30 that evening. Already in the driveway were Uncle Dave’s car complete with the boat on a trailer, and Uncle Mike’s truck with the camper trailer behind it. We squeezed into the last space remaining, and quietly got out.

Our arrival was not unnoticed — Maggie, the Znack’s (Uncle Mike, Aunt Brenda, and my cousin Jennifer) dalmation, began a barking fit as I passed. This woke Uncle Mike, but not Jennifer (strangely enough). Brenda was somewhere in the house.

The next day we started off with a big breakfast, and then opted for an excursion down to the launching ramp to put the boat in the water. When we arrived at the ramp, we found that most of the boating population of Kelowna had done the same. It turned out that the most popular place to view the Thunderboat races (which were the thing to see that weekend) was on the water.

As we waited to launch the boat, Allison decided it was time for Jennifer and I to bond. She got Jennifer to tickle me. Yes, I’m ticklish. Jennifer loved it. Frankly, so did I, if for only one reason: I got to know Jennifer as a result. Jennifer was born in 1989, thus making her 17 years younger than myself. (This isn’t the fault of her parents, but considering Aunt Brenda is about 14 years younger than my mother, it does explain a few things.) Every time I had seen Jennifer before, she was either too shy, or I was too wrapped up with other things to really get to know her. I thought this was great, personally. I get along very well with all my cousins, so getting to know Jennifer better was a definite asset.

Finally, we got to launch the boat. Not a huge event, but rather important before you can go out on the lake. It was then I found out that we were to go for a ride. This presented a problem — Allison doesn’t like small boats. She gets seasick rather easily. I offered to take the car back, which is the best thing we could do. I figured that even the trip back to the beach near the Tisdale’s (Uncle Dave and Aunt Alaine) would be troublesome for Allison, and I wasn’t really interested in pushing her luck. Dave handed me his keys and told me to take the car back.

I thought to myself: “Well, at least now we can see how Geoff can drive with a trailer.” No problem, I thought. I can handle it. When we arrived at the car, we had a smaller problem … I noticed that where there should be a shifter for the automatic transmission, there was in fact a shifter for the manual transmission. I had never really driven with a manual before. I had always wanted to learn, but the opportunity had never really presented itself.

Well, all things considered, it wasn’t that bad. Yes, I did stall the car a couple of times when I tried to get going, but it was (so I found out later) because what I thought was first gear was actually third. (The shifter in Volvos apparently ain’t so great.) We managed to arrive back at the Tisdale’s in one piece, and with the transmission intact.

There we found out that the rest of the troupe, save for Nana (my mother’s mother), had also gone out. The dictate was: Be at the launch for 14:00. Allison and I took the opportunity to get a few things that Allison needed. The first thing was contact lens cleaner, which apparently had emptied itself that morning. The second thing was Gravol. Allison was going to make an attempt to go boating.

Despite the cola she had drank to counter the extreme drowsiness brought on by the Gravol, Allison had a hard time staying away. But finally, we got onto the boat, and took a trip out into the lake. Lake Okanagan is quite warm, and shallow in many places. But it is deep in others — the bridge crossing the narrow part of the lake is so deep that it wasn’t feasible to build concrete supports into the lakebed. As a result, the middle portion of the bridge floats.

That evening, we had barbecued tiger prawns. I’ve become accustomed to eating prawns now, and can usually stomach them if there is no alternative. But don’t get me wrong, I’ll still order something else if I have the option.

The following day, Allison and I opted not to travel around Kelowna with my relatives, but instead decided to travel down to Penticton to visit with Allison’s friend Kelly (whom I knew). Although Kelly lived in the lower mainland (about 30-45 minutes from our apartment), bad timing had prevented us from all getting together for a long time.

The plan was to travel down the canal that runs from Penticton a few miles south. You pay $10, they give you an innertube and they pick you up at the other end. However, there was a minor problem on this fine (and hot) day: The water level was too low. This meant we could only go half the length we could normally have gone. The three of us discussed this, then decided that this was not such a good idea. So we spent the afternoon at the beach instead.

When Allison and I returned to Kelowna, we didn’t immediately return to the Tisdales. Instead, we went to check out a planned community called Kettle Valley. It was amazing. The houses looked just like the ones I had wanted to own for years. The prices weren’t all that bad, at least when compared to Vancouver.

That evening, we had a vertible feast back at the Tisdale compound. Mike and Brenda had brought a rather large chunk of beef from Alberta, which was roasted to utter perfection on the barbecue. To match the meal, we had glasses of Okanagan valley wine, which had completely won over Uncle Dave (this is an important detail, because until that point he had only liked a specific brand of French wine). Dinner was fabulous.

The following day was our departure. After another huge breakfast, we made a somewhat hasty exit — we were the first out of the driveway (the Znacks and Nana were also leaving), but I doubt we were the first out of Kelowna. Allison and I dawdled about Kettle Valley a bit longer, and then through the city, stopping briefly to pick up some aspirin to tackle Allison’s earache.

By the time we arrived in Merritt, we were ready for lunch. We didn’t want to eat at a fast food restaurant, so we tried the ABC Country Restaurant (part of the ABC Family Restaurant chain). After a wait that even Godot would have been amazed at, we finally got our at-best-mediocre food.

We effectively lost and hour and a half eating lunch. We were now at a disadvantage for arriving in the lower mainland ahead of the traffic. We hopped back on the Coquihalla, and I headed south, hoping to beat the pack.

After a couple of hours, Allison needed to pull over for a while. She was on the sunny side of the car, and was beginning to develop heat stroke. At one of the places where the Coquihalla River passes under the highway that bears its name, we stopped for a rest. We climbed down to the river to play a while in its cool waters. There we wasted even more time building a small dam from the available rocks to create a wading pool.

By the time we reached Hope, we had lost all hope of making it without the traffic. Allison was not in a good mood as a result of the heat, and I was getting a little annoyed myself. So we ended up leaving the Coquihalla and drove north on Highway 9 in search of Highway 7 (otherwise known as the Lougheed Highway), which would take us within spitting distance of our apartment.

Allison was convinced this was not such a great idea, but I had a little more faith in the general stupidity of others. Aside from a backing up of traffic where Highway 7 and 9 met, the flow was smooth and non-stop right to Willingdon Rd., which we took south to get home.