Sunday, 7 September 2008

Seattle & West Canada

This is typical for us attempt to combine holiday and the race – not always easy to find balance between sightseeing and getting a rest needed to recover after a long flight.

Full of enthusiam we've arrived to Vancouver on Fri afternoon, picked up the car and headed to Seattle (even 3.5 hrs queue on the USA boarder didn't upset us). With no detailed plans, no maps covering USA we relayed on Mike memory to show us around as he was there before.

2 days passed quickly on driving around Microsoft in Redmond (city within the city, looks like a very pleasant place to work, surrounded by lots of greenery and sport fields), visiting Boeing factory in Everett (found out that a plane has 180miles of cables, 6mln parts and now know can recognize 777 from 747) and of course stopped at few bike shops but resisted temptation of buying a new cervelo bike (they're so much cheaper than in Europe).

The food servings in America are huge – Mike has an appetite but we never managed to finish 1 starter and 2 mains between us. Our favourite place was called Crab Pot in Seattle harbour –big pot of seafood that is thrown the middle of the table.

On Monday we headed back to Vancouver and left the sunny weather in the USA. Vancouver is known as a place where you can ski in the morning and sail in the afternoon – unfortunately it was cold, rainy and the clouds were sitting low so we couldn’t see the surrounding mountains but on the postcard it looked spectacular. We decided to take it easy and spend day in Stanley Park (equivalent of Hyde Park in London but more wild), walking through the centre and having lots of coffee breaks. Vancouver seems to be a nice place to live, peaceful with lots of great restaurants.

After day in Vancouver we drove 280 miles to Penticton in Okanagan Valley, where the race was taking place. Okanagan Valley is known for good weather (except the time we were there) lots of lakes, wineries and fruit farms. We stayed in the place recommended by Nick, who was racing here last year. It was called God’s Mountain, quite spectacular house on the top of the hill surrounded by winery, furnished with the antics, fireplaces, lots of books, no tv, 2 fully equipment kitchens and a view over the lake.
This was great a place to relax but we were there a 'bit' restless as we're not used to sitting and doing nothing. The days passed on visiting nearby wineries (me trying, Mike driving), stopping for coffees in Penticton and reading books. So when we run out of the things to do Mike always came up with an "great" idea - why not to visit bike shop, try new helmets, check what wheels they have ....

Sunday was the race day – 2.4 mile swim, 112 miles bike and 26 miles run - Mike finished in 9:41 – great time for windy conditions and a hilly course.

On Tue after long thinking we decided to head to Rockies (some would called us crazy - driving another 8hrs just to spend couple of days in the mountains knowing that weather forecast is dreadful but we had too check if the view is as breathtaking as written in all the travel guides). Rockies span 3,000 miles from Canada to New Mexico

The drive to Rockies was taking us much longer than expected 8hrs as we were stopping frequently and around 7pm we had enough and went for a walk around Emerald Lake and decided to camp in the tiny village Field, where all the houses were older than 100 years.

The next 2 days we spent in Banff – tiny town very popular with tourists in the National Park within the close proximity to the most picturesque spots in The Rockies. During the rain we were taking shelter in the coffee shops, when it stopped we tried to do as many walks as possible. One of the best known spots is Lake Louise – lake surrounded by mountains with a huge expensive hotel at the shore.

From there we went for 5 mile walk to Lake Agnes – beautiful place above Lake Louise, there is super coffee shop run by students in the summer with no electricity. All the cakes and bread is homemade and all the supplies are delivered by helicopter at the beginning of the summer. After spending so long in the car it was really good to be able to stretch the legs.

Weather remained unchanged – 40F at night, 50F at day and frequent showers. We continued camping - since we bough woolen hats and started going to hot springs in the evening we were actually quite warm. On Thu we had an unwanted ‘excitement’ – ZOOM airline went into liquidation and were forced to find alternative way home. As we were not sure whether we get the refund we decided to play safe and look for a cheaper way home, which ended up to be from Calgary and day later than planned (the only positive was that Calgary is closer to Rockies than Vancouver, it saved us driving 450 miles)

On Friday we drove 150 miles to Jasper – the road is called The Icefield Parkway and was voted one of the most spectacular drives in America. It feels like driving through the tunnel with high mountains on the left and right. The weather was particularly bad so we only managed to do 2 walks: Johnston Canyon and Bow Glacier/Pyeto Lake

We arrived at Jasper at 7pm – it was raining so heavily that the windscreen wipers where on the highest. Even we were not crazy enough to put the tent up and were determined to find some roof over our heads. It turned out to be a really hard task as it was a long weekend and everything was fully booked – after 2 hrs we found something.

On Saturday the weather improved and we drove back to Calgary – we enjoyed the Rockies enormously and had to agree that Icefield Parkway is really very spectacular.

Columbia Glacier (below) with big tourist centre is the main attraction on the highway. It's possible to drive to middle of the glacier in the bus with giant tires but we found it a bit too touristy for our liking – we recently returned from South America where we did proper ice walking (ops - that come out a bit snobbish).

Calgary – we arrived in the evening and bad weather caught up with us – it was raining so we spent the evening in the hotel. Next day the weather didn’t improve so we ended up driving around centre and then having long lunch before heading to the airport. Calgary hosted 1988 Winter Olympic.

While in Rockies we saw one black bear

lots of stuffed bears
and moose
We managed to stay positive and didn’t let the weather to get to us. Rockies turned out to be one of the few places that as spectacular as on the pictures. Despite the short stay and inconvenient weather we managed to visit most known touristy places. Rockies would be high on the list of the places we would love to return to (if only we had more holiday and money). Hopefully next time we could do proper mountain trekking and have better weather.

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