Days 99-100: Victoria, British Columbia

I said “good morning” to the spider in my bathroom, my usual acquaintance. I walked out of the living space in my Airbnb to drive to a museum downtown. The wife’s father was sitting on the couch taking care of the toddler while the parents worked. He asked me about my travels and I told him that I quit my job and sold my house in Los Angeles so I could see the world. He responded, “You sold your house in Los Angeles? You’ll never be able to afford to live there again.” I replied, “Well, perhaps I’ll be successful and can afford to buy one again. Or perhaps I don’t want to live in LA any longer.”

It was lightly raining outside and the man told me winter had arrived. They don’t get snow on the island, but they get a lot of rain. I really didn’t mind the weather. We never get rain in Los Angeles, so it was a nice change of scenery.

I went to the Canadian Museum of History. There was a section called First Nations Hall where they have information about the aboriginal peoples. I learned about their culture and how they were taken over by the British. There is a group who is working to remember aboriginal history and traditions so it’s not all forgotten.

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As I strolled through the museum, I wondered what would be left behind of our civilization if the supervolcano erupted in Wyoming. Our world is so digital, would anything survive to tell future generations that we existed and what our societies were like?

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The museum had a display about climate change. I thought they did a nice job of laying out the various effects without being in your face about it. I wish the US could be more balanced when talking about issues. Unfortunately, it’s all very polarized. We should strive to be more like the aboriginals. In order to achieve peace, they would marry two opposing families. Hmm, not a bad idea. Perhaps we should marry a Bush with a Clinton.

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After exploring the museum, I walked to the start of a ghost tour. There were 13 people on the tour and our guide was a former historian. He was retired and started this business walking people around the city, telling stories about the haunted past. He started the tour asking, “Does everyone believe in ghosts?” Almost everyone said yes. Then he asked, “Does anyone not believe in ghosts?” I was the only one who responded, “Me.” The guide said, “So, only one?”

The group laughed and stared at me as the guide said, “You know that means you’ll be the first to go if this was a horror movie? Don’t say ‘don’t worry guys, it’s just a dark hallway.’ That’s the kill line.” I liked this guide. He was a great storyteller and full of historical information.

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We started the tour on the side lawn of the Empress Hotel. Our guide explained that hotels are the second most common place for people to die, after their home. Hotels are especially prone to suicides. People don’t want their families to be the ones who discover their bodies.

In the 1950s, there was a British woman who moved into the hotel during the winter. At the time, they didn’t get many tourists during the winter, so locals often moved in to the beautiful hotel at a discounted rate. She always made it downstairs for the 4:30 pm tea time. Until one day. Concerned that she did not show up, the staff went to check on her and found her dead inside the room.

For years after she died, guests kept complaining that something felt strange in that room. The hotel received so many complaints, that around 1989, they turned her room into an elevator when they converted the old staff quarters on the top floor into penthouses. After they destroyed her old room, guests reported hearing a knock on their door and seeing an old woman wandering the hallway saying, “Have you seen my room?”

During the tour, we walked all over the downtown area, going to various historic building and learning some scary history. I was particularly intrigued by the story of the famous architect in Victoria, Francis Rattenbury, who at age 25 won a contest to design the new legislative building. He went on to become very famous, designing many buildings in Victoria. But then it gets interesting with affairs, greed, and being murdered back in London by his younger second wife and her 18-year-old lover. You can read more here.

The tour was fun and informative. The following day I drove back to downtown Victoria for a bike tour. Our guide, Matt, was about my age with a reddish beard. He was fit, but had a bit of a belly. He said this was the last bike tour of the season and I chuckled because I kept getting the last tours for the season. There were five people from a cruise ship that had docked, and a single older guy who kept talking to me.

We rode through Victoria, stopping at various sights so Matt could tell us more about the history. He said the buildings there are the oldest in western Canada because they never had any fires like San Francisco and Vancouver. When we arrived at the Parliament building, Matt started to tell the story of the architect. I felt like a child who couldn’t contain myself. I joined in with him and told them the more “haunted” parts to the story that I had learned the night before.

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Shortly after, we arrived at the Empress Hotel where Matt told us how it was the most famous hotel in the area. Not being able to contain myself once again, I jumped in to tell the others about the haunted history behind the hotel with the old woman.

We rode all over the city and saw the Emily Carr house, various government buildings, and the ocean. Matt told us about how Canada is no longer under the English monarchy, but they do still follow a lot of the traditions because they are part of the Commonwealth with England (Constitutional Monarchy). For example, there is a position in Victoria where someone is assigned Governor General of Canada for five years. Their job is to stand on the steps of parliament as the Queen’s representative and when a new bill is passed, she/he will nod their head, showing the queen’s agreement. The Governor General is chosen by the Premier of British Columbia and it’s usually someone who has shown a history of volunteer work. They get to live in a fancy house with a beautiful garden for free while in this position.

 The bike tour took us up some large hills, forcing some people to walk their bikes. It would occasionally sprinkle so I put my rain jacket on. However, the sun kept popping out, making it very hot inside the rain jacket. When we got back to the bike shop, Matt said, “Well that was a nice ride. It didn’t rain today.” A woman in our group replied, “Yes it did.” Matt laughed, “In Victoria, we would say it didn’t rain.”

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I walked through the downtown area and ate some delicious tacos at Tacofino, a place Matt recommended.  Afterwards, I drove to Best Buy to get another SD card for my GoPro.

Once back at the Airbnb, I started to watch a new series on Netflix called Maniac. For some reason, I was longing for someone to cuddle with. I missed having physical touch, someone to hold me. I never used to be that way when I was younger. It took me a long time to get used to holding hands and touching a partner. But now I often find myself missing the feeling. I’ve read studies about how humans need physical touch and that skin-to-skin contact releases serotonin and oxytocin (hormones that make you happy).

It’s funny learning things about yourself. If you told me 20 years ago that I would miss physical touch from a romantic partner, I would have laughed. As someone who used to get up every time her boyfriend put his arm around her at age 19, I wouldn’t have believed you. But in that moment, I wished I had someone to snuggle up with.

Post Edited By: Mandy Strider
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Day 66: Bike Tour and Alaska State Fair

I signed up for a bike tour in Anchorage. If you’ve read my other posts, you know I love bike tours. We met at the log cabin visitor center in the morning and it was pretty cold – in the high 50s. The tour guides were two women in their 30s. They both had very short blonde hair and were fit.

I got into the van with two couples who appeared to be in their early 60s. One of the couples was from Toronto and the other was from Atlanta. The Atlanta couple was taking a train through Alaska.

We drove to a park near the airport and on the way there we got to know each other a bit. One of the tour guides is from Fairbanks and moved to Anchorage eight years ago. The other guide is from Portland, attended college in Juneau, and moved to Anchorage 15 years ago.

The guides told us that the city has to repaint the lines on the roads every year because the snow plows scrape it all off during the winter months. It can be difficult to drive in the spring when the lines aren’t very visible. They don’t bring the plows out until there’s at least four inches of snow on the road!

We arrived at the park, got the bikes from the trailer, put on jackets, and started riding on the bike trail with one of the guides while the other drove the van to our meeting spot. I was happy to have the jacket because it blocked the cold wind. The park was beautiful and we stopped periodically to see a site or learn something new.

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The sky started to clear up and the sun came out. They joked that I brought the sunshine from California. From the distance, we could see Mount Denali.

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As we rode through the thick trees, we saw a moose and her baby eating! We quietly pulled over and watched them for a little bit.

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The tour guide told us that the trails are used for hiking and biking in the summer and for cross-country skiing in the winter. Since it gets dark at 3:00 pm in the winter, they turn on the lights so people can ski. Professional skiers use those trails.

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We stopped at Earthquake park, a park dedicated to the Great Alaskan Earthquake of 1964. It occurred on Good Friday at 5:36 pm and lasted four minutes and thirty-eight seconds with a magnitude 9.2. It’s North America’s most powerful earthquake recorded. Structures collapsed, tsunamis ensued, and 139 people were killed. The park is located where homes once stood and were washed away into the ocean during the earthquake, which literally changed the geography of the land.

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We continued on the bike path and stopped for some beautiful views of the downtown area across the ocean and later views of the downtown area across a calm lake surrounded by mountains.

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After the bike tour, I drove 45 minutes to the Alaska state fair. It was senior day and there was a line to get a ticket. While I waited, a gigantic dragonfly landed on the shirt of the man in front of me. I knew I’d be seeing giant vegetables there, but didn’t expect to see giant insects!

Once inside the fairgrounds, I saw booths like “Bad girls of the North,” “Guardians of the 49th” (state troopers), a gun raffle, and winners in the bakery contest.

I watched kids proudly racing their piglets for a prize, giant zucchini for sale, and of course an abundance of fried foods.

I walked into the huge barn that housed animals and the largest pumpkin contest was underway. The sunlight is so long in the summertime, they can grow enormous vegetables. They were bringing the pumpkins out on pallets and the risers were full of people anxiously waiting for the results. I didn’t stay to see the winner and kept walking around.

This place had everything! Arts and crafts, contests, a reptile house, and a flower garden.

I ate some food and continued to explore the booths. I saw a barn labeled Senior Storytelling, so I stood in the back of the crowded room and tried to listen. Some were good, and some were not so good at telling stories. But then this senior walked to the microphone and read a poem about love. He said, “Love is a tickling in the heart you can’t scratch.” It was a sweet reading.

I drove back to my Airbnb and started to pack up because I had a very early morning flight to Denver, Colorado so I could attend two weddings. I have a friend who lives in Anchorage, but she was out of town while I was there. I needed somewhere to keep my car while I was gone and she put me in contact with her friend, Amanda.

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I drove my car to Amanda’s house that evening and she offered to drive me back to my Airbnb while her 20-month-old twins fell asleep in the car. When I arrived, she gave me the medications I had shipped to her house since I didn’t have an address. She was so generous to do all of this for me considering I had just met her. Her husband stayed home and watched their son who was around six years old and his friend who was staying the night. Amanda loaded up the twins and we headed to my Airbnb, hoping they’d fall asleep.

After 20 minutes, we arrived to my Airbnb and she pulled into the driveway. I thanked her and started walking up the stairs, but then she texted me and asked if I could come back to her car. I went back and she asked if she could pray with me. I got back into the car and she held my hand while praying for me and my journey. Afterwards, we talked about how God has plans and is bigger than all of us. We need to remember to pause and thank him.

It’s sometimes uncomfortable praying with others out loud. My friend Debbie has gotten me more comfortable with it as she often prays out loud with me. God has totally provided for me during my life and during this trip. Amanda was encouraging, warm, sweet, and caring. God often sends people into my life at the right time and they provide for me in ways that make me incredibly grateful.

Post Edited By: Mandy Strider
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