Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Scattered memories of a trip to Canada

My SO and I are now back from our trip to Canada. We decided that we wanted to spend more time at home this summer (to work on remodeling our house), so we made this trip shorter that prior years' trips. As a result, we didn't take much time to sightsee or visit neat places (like we've done in the past few years); however, we do have some fun memories to report:

Welcome to Oregon: It had not rained at all on our trip north through California, but within five seconds (literally!) of passing the "Welcome to Oregon" sign, we were greeted with the "splat" "splat" "splat" of raindrops on our windshield. Later that night we ended up having to stop earlier than we had planned, thanks to extremely heavy rain that made I-5 virtually unnavigable.

Ubuntu saves the net: I brought my Ubuntu 5.10 live CD (which allows me to boot my old Windows laptop into Linux) on the trip. On one night we stayed in a hotel that had free wireless, but when I attempted to connect to the network with Windows XP I kept getting "failed to connect" messages. I fiddled with everything I knew how to fiddle with, but nothing worked. So, I popped in the live CD, booted up into Ubuntu, and within five minutes was happily surfing the net (albeit slowly, thanks to the fact that my laptop has about as much memory as a nematode). Three cheers for Linux!

The credit card of conversation: I've had a Motley Fool credit card for a while now, and its most notable feature (besides getting 1% cash back on all purchases) is that a large and colorful jester decorates the front of the card (see the top of this page). I use this card regularly in the US, and probably fewer than 5% of the people who see it make any kind of comment. However, up in Canada virtually everyone who looks at it goes "Ooooh, isn't that cute?" and starts asking me about it. Conclusion: If you ever want to start a conversation with a Canadian, go get a Motley Fool credit card.

AAA's Oregon directions suck: We typically rely on AAA's tourbooks to find motels and restaurants in the cities we're driving through. In southern Oregon they failed us. As we were driving north on I-5, we decided that we wanted to eat dinner in Ashland; we found a few restaurants in the AAA book, which reported that they were located downtown on Main St. "just s. of plaza." So, we drove along I-5 looking for Main Street (or an exit labeled "downtown" or "plaza"), only to watch Ashland pass by on our left as we drove through the city and out to the forested lands north of it. There was no Main St., downtown, or plaza exit that we could find.

AAA's Oregon directions really suck: So, giving up on Ashland, we proceeded to locate a restaurant (Vinny's Italian Kitchen) that the AAA book said was in Medford. The directions were as simple as could be: "I-5, exit 27, 2.1 mi w on Barnett Rd, then just s; in Larson Creek Shopping Center". Happy that we finally had a freeway exit to look for, we proceeded to exit and headed west on Barnett. Unfortunately, Barnett dead-ended into a high school. See Google Map's satellite map here if you don't believe me; when traveling west on Barnett from I-5, Barnett changes into Panther road (which is a "road" going through the campus that's blocked off), continues for one block west of the high school as Barnett Rd., then just ends in a housing development. It appears that the directions should have directed us east, not west. Great proofreading.

Oregon and Washington's rest stops are amazing: I'm used to California's rest stops on Interstate 5; while they're functional, they're not the type of place I'd typically choose to have a picnic. Even when there are picnic tables, they're all crammed together in one little area right next to the parking lots and restrooms. However, every rest stop we visited in Oregon and Washington seemed like a little park: there were tons of trees, lots of other greenery, and many little paths leading to tables that were scattered throughout the trees. I almost felt bad for not spending more time at them.

Haultain's was open: Last year (as noted on our exercise blog) we walked more than five miles in a fruitless attempt to get fish and chips at Haultain's; this year we were more successful (and drove).

Making ferry reservations helps (empty one's pocketbook): To get to and from Vancouver Island we had to take a car ferry. Last year we ended up having to wait hours in line for each ferry; this year we made reservations for both legs of our trip, and never had to wait more than 90 minutes. Unfortunately, the ferry companies have figured out that people like being on time, and thus charge for the privilege of making reservations.

Relaxation after stress is a good idea: We spent two nights in a bed and breakfast in Victoria once my course was over. We did little other than eat, read, and sleep; it was time well spent.

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