Salty Sea Dog Reunion, Three Valley Gap to Ruskin

It was a comfy bed. Until it wasn’t. I dunno if it’s just me getting old, but I find it’s hard to find a mattress I’m truly happy with.

I had to pry the family out of bed with a crowbar at 7:30am. Part of the point of this stop in what had been a single-shot drive for us in recent years was so we could get to Ruskin earlier than usual. Like, for a proper dinner time, instead of the usual “before bed” time.

Breakfast at the Chateau was lacklustre but at least nourishing. Plus the coffee helped chase away what cobwebs remained from the previous day and night. We were then back on the road, westbound. Though with the additional time getting moving meant we had one other thing to sneak in: geocaches.

I had set a pace yesterday that eliminated all stops unless absolutely necessary, including Alex’s usual requests for geocaches. (Heck, we barely stopped except for dinner.) We didn’t even make it around Three Valley Lake before Alex had us trucking off onto logging roads in search of caches.

This made me leery. I had visions of hitting something that would screw up one of the tires and blow our entire day. I played along, but not as happily as I would normally. When the first cache proved to require more scrambling than just grab-and-going, and self-necessitated me on self-imposed Bear Watch, I started being less interested at going further into the woods. Alex gave up after the second cache and we headed back out to the highway.

Uninterested in stopping at the Enchanted Forest (the kids might finally have reached that “too old” age), we didn’t stop again until the west side of Salmon Arm, to hit DeMille’s Farm Market on a mission from Jean to find haskap berry jam. Which also necessitated a slight deviation from the norm, as the new section of the Trans Canada is now in place, which moves away from DeMille’s, requiring an offramp, traffic circle, and a slight double-back. This might sound a bit awkward, but unless you’ve had the pleasure of trying to turn left out of DeMille’s into the Trans Canada, you’ll never know the joy of how much easier this is.

DeMille’s was open, but haskap-less. The season hadn’t yet arrived, which meant the jam was not yet made and they were out of the previous season’s batch. What they weren’t out of was booze. A brand-new section of DeMille’s now featured all kinds of local varieties of wines, ciders, beers, gin, and even rum (which was made from honey, instead of cane juice). We might have gotten slightly distracted.

As we were approaching Kamloops, we got our second news of delays from the East. This morning, I’d received a text from Mom saying Cathy’s 06:30 ET flight had been cancelled and rescheduled to 15:00. Now the news was that the 15:00 was delayed to 16:35. The change to 15:00 was causing problems already – Cathy had a ferry reservation and a hotel booked for tonight. Unless she made it to Vancouver in time, getting the car and getting to the ferry was going to be a problem. And the new delay were making things worse.

We arrived in Kamloops around lunchtime, which wasn’t quite “as planned” so much as “really convenient”. We aimed for the Moxie’s down by Riverside Park, a known location for us to munch at that gave us little concern. (When you travel with somewhat picky people, combined with someone with dietary restrictions, you often find yourself having to go with “safe” rather than “adventurous”.)

As I sat down, I caught up in the messages. The term “sideways” was coming to mind as Cathy’s flight was delayed again to 17:00. Getting to Vancouver Island was now impossible. And to make matters worse, there was not a hotel room to be found online until Chilliwack, an hour and a half to the east of the airport. Cathy, who had claimed to “need wine now” was starting to look into sleeping at the airport.

There are times when the internet fails you. We expect it to be an all-seeing, all-knowing Oracle, and for the most part it generally tends to be that way. But when you’re facing a very diminishing resource, such as hotel rooms in the Lower Mainland, things start to get dicey. And that’s when you sidestep technology and go right to the source: a human.

I started making phone calls.

Near the airport, I struck out repeatedly. Even with the plead that WestJet had utterly screwed my sister (because, WestJet, you did), there were simply no rooms to be had. Three cruise ships, an influx of post-COVID travellers who just needed to travel somewhere, and the pre-COVID normal summer load seeming to have returned combined to wipe out nearly everything. (That there was also a settlement with hotel cleaners to give them consistent wage rather than the irregular one, which Allen had some influence in helping achieve, might have also contributed to this.)

After a half an hour of ignoring my family at the table, I got lucky and found a room at the Granville Island Boutique Hotel. At C$760/night. Which about gave me a heart attack. But Cathy, whose day I couldn’t imagine (making our little dalliance with WestJet in Heathrow two months ago seem like a pleasure), said in no uncertain terms to book it. At least she’d have a place to sleep tonight.

Lunch was … well, I ate. I was less concerned about my own meal, and more that my sister and her family were (sort of) taken care of for the night. And it was time for my family to continue on our way.

Well, after trying again to solve a geocache puzzle that we couldn’t figure out the last time. The trend continued.

After filling up the tank (at nearly C$200, with fuel going for $2.24/l), we headed onto the Coquihalla for the three-hour jaunt to Ruskin. I’ll be blunt, it’s not my favourite highway: it’s very hilly. And that, to me, is woefully inefficient. It’s a practice here in North America to lay highways over hilly terrain in the straightest line possible, to the detriment of the vehicles that have to cross it.

For 2/3s of the trip to Hope, it was the same old #5 – up, down, up, flat, down, flat, up, up, up, dooooooooooooooooooooooooooooown, flat, up for a ridiculously long time, then a 16 km drop into Merritt. And then repeat that again, but to Hope. But the second leg was interrupted with roadwork, notably the repairs to the bridges and road surfaces caused by the massive flooding in the Coquihalla Valley during an “atmospheric river” that caused tremendous flooding all across the western side of British Columbia. It was only due to the overbuilt nature of the Coquihalla highway that a bridge could still be out of service for repairs, and traffic could continue without trouble.

At Hope, Alex gave her parents the customary heads-up. We were an hour away. And just over an hour later, we arrived at Ruskin.

About three months ago, Alex first got the news that Allen had been diagnosed with Congestive Heart Failure. Things weren’t great, but they were manageable. Or so everyone thought. The problems got worse, soon requiring trips to doctors, then ambulances to the house, then ambulances to hospitals. Allen did the circuit of Ridge Meadows, Mission Memorial, and Abbotsford Regional hospitals, getting a unique slice of how older facilities truly struggle to provide good health care.

He died, twice. I’m sure there’s a biblical analogy I could use, here, but I’m sure Allen – a Presbyterian minister with a doctorate in Divinity – might not be too keen on me trying, so I won’t. A pacemaker soon turned him around, and finally got him home. Alex had flown out to see him in the hospital a couple of weeks ago, before the pacemaker, so we were all a little hesitant at what to expect.

Allen, for the record, is in good health. Although the whole CHF escapade had him shed a fair bit of weight, he’s in good spirits and about as cantankerous as I’ve known him, even if he spent most of the time sitting in his easy chair.

Rooms had been rearranged. Due to mobility challenges, Allen now lives on the main floor, his office has followed. This used up two rooms that we normally use (Alex and I in one room, Choo Choo in the other), which could have thrown a curveball in our plans if the downstairs suite wasn’t empty. The kids both would go upstairs, Monkey to her usual place, but Choo Choo would occupy Allen and Jean’s room (as they’re now downstairs). I lugged a few things downstairs for Alex and I; we’re leaving again tomorrow morning, so it’s not a complete unpack.

Dinner was delicious as was dessert. Alex and Allan watched a bit of their beloved Junk TV. I’m rapidly fading – it had been a long drive today, it was a long drive yesterday, and we have a long drive tomorrow – and I desperately need some rest. Á mañana…