Days 152-153: Thanksgiving For One

Day 152 was American Thanksgiving. While Canada had their Thanksgiving the month prior, the ski resorts still recognize the day because it’s the official start of ski season. American tourists will often go to Whistler over the long weekend. This year, there wasn’t any snow. It hadn’t snowed at all the entire month, so the resort was making snow at the top so some of the runs could be opened. People could ski on the top half, but they couldn’t ski to the bottom.

I don’t ski or snowboard, but I wanted to enjoy the snow because I think it’s beautiful. I also wanted to go snowmobiling. On Thanksgiving, I walked to the gym and got a workout in. Afterwards, I FaceTimed with my family in Missouri so I could say hello and see all of the delicious food they were eating.

After showering, I decided to go to my favorite restaurant to eat a Thanksgiving meal. Portobello is attached to the Fairmont Chateau at the base of Blackholm mountain. I ordered the chicken mushroom pie and a dessert. It was just as delicious as when I ate it back in September. The place was mostly empty, as was that whole section of the village. Blackholm didn’t have the gondola operating. It was only operating at Whistler mountain across the way.

I walked around the Fairmont Hotel, which was decorated beautifully for Christmas. There is something special about luxury hotels. I just love them. I love the details that people put into making a magical atmosphere. I wandered the halls, wishing I could live there.

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Outside, the trees were laden with lights, adding to the festive experience. It started to drizzle and I regretted not having my umbrella. I walked the Village Stroll over to the main part of the village. Because it was Thanksgiving, I didn’t just want to sit around at home. I saw a sign for a Vodka Ice Bar. It was inside of a hotel, so I went to the front to ask about it.

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They keep this small freezer room at -22 F (-30 C) full of vodka. You can do an expensive tour and it includes four shots of vodka in 20 minutes. You aren’t allowed to stay longer due to the cold. I signed up for the tour, but there wasn’t a group to go yet so I ordered a drink and some oysters at the bar. It was around 5:30 pm and it was mostly empty.

To my left was a couple from Seattle and to my right was a couple from Portland. Both couples were there for the long weekend to ski and were pretty bummed about the conditions. They were the first Americans I had met the entire month in Whistler.

I talked with the couple to my right about my travels and they said they were jealous that I was living the dream. The girl’s name was also Christy and she was only two years older than me. They were fun to talk with and they signed up for the next tour as well. After talking for about 15 minutes, we were called to put on large, thick coats to tour the vodka room. The bartender was helpful and put my oysters in the fridge for me.

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There were 11 of us on the tour. When we stood up to put on our heavy coats, the guy from Portland said, “Wow, I didn’t realize you were so tall.” I get that a lot when people meet me when I’m sitting down.

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The vodka room was so cold! The coat helped a lot but my fingers were freezing! I had to have one hand out to hold my little shot glass so I kept rotating hands, giving one a chance to warm up in my pocket. The tour guide talked with us about vodka for about five minutes and then let us sample four kinds.

I talked with a couple who were in their late 40s to early 50s and they volunteered to take my picture. That was super nice because daring to take your hand out of the pocket was a painful experience. Supposedly the vodka tastes much better being that cold. It was good, but I was too focused on being freezing. Plus, having four shots in 15 minutes is a lot.

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As we were all taking off our coats, the couples said they were leaving because they only came to the bar for the vodka room. We said goodbye and maybe we’d see each other again. They didn’t want to tell people we met at the vodka room though, so they said, “We’ll just say we met at the library.” Wink wink.

I went back to the bar and the bartender promptly got my oysters back out and I ordered another drink. There was a tall German guy sitting next to me so we chatted for a bit. He was there for work. His job is to figure out the best tour for millionaires to drive their three million dollar cars from Vancouver to Alberta. They were considering making a stop in Whistler. He was waiting to meet with the operators to see what Whistler could offer them – maybe helicopter rides?

Man, being a millionaire is a crazy life. This guy was friendly enough, but he was pretentious. His co-worker met him at the bar, and then they met up with another couple at the bar, the operators. I almost got included in their meeting, until we basically had to explain I was just talking to him at the bar and I didn’t actually know him. They all went off to look at the cellar to see the finest wines available.

I looked around and noticed it was now packed. Dead-season was officially over. There was live piano music and it was a lovely place to be. Once I finished my oysters, I walked around the village now that the shops were finally open past 6:00 pm.

After checking out some shops, I went into Tapley’s. It’s a bar that has live music, skeeball, and darts. I sat at the bar and listened to the bartenders talk about the sudden influx of the American tourists – the start of the season.

“We’re running out of glasses. They’re all ordering martinis.”

“That’s how you know the Americans are in town.”

The next day, I woke up to snow flurries! I was ecstatic that it was finally snowing! Unfortunately, it only lasted for about 15 minutes and didn’t stick.

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I had ordered some boots and a winter coat from a store called Long Tall Sally. They closed their U.S. stores and only have physical stores in Canada. The closest one to me was in Vancouver, so I ordered online and had them shipped to my Airbnb. In the U.S., I would order from them and receive my package within a few days. I was confused when it took two weeks to be delivered. Then I found out the Canadian Post Office was on a strike.

Thankfully, I received them just in time for the snow. The boots were cute, but they were a little tight. I wear size 12, and most stores don’t carry my size, so I would have to make them  work.

As I was getting ready to walk to Creekside Village to test out my new boots and coat, I received a knock on the door.

“Hi, I just wanted to let you know that we’re going to be doing some construction in the unit above you for the next three days from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm. I know you’re going to be in the unit a lot, I already notified the owner of your unit.”

“Yeah, that’s a bummer considering I’m trying to get a lot of writing done.”

“Well, according to the bylaws, we can work from 8:00 am to 8:00 pm, but we’re not working that long. The first two days will be the loudest because we’re redoing the floors. Maybe you could go work at the Starbucks down the street.”

Great. Within 15 minutes, the noise was so loud that my cousin couldn’t hear me on the phone. I talked with the owner and described how loud the noise was. She wasn’t confident it would only be three days because after the floors, they were redoing the cabinets. We had already agreed that I’d stay an extra 10 days, so she agreed to give me the extra days at a discount.

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I walked down to Creekside Village and walked around. Two snowboarders stopped me on the corner asking where the bus station was. I directed them and said it’s $2.50 one way. They said they’d probably just hitchhike instead, but they headed towards the bus station. I felt like a local – people asked me for directions!

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The snow had stopped, but it was still pretty and festive outside. The gondola was running even though it was mostly empty. I walked over to a gingerbread house that was serving speciality-made ice cream cones with cotton candy around it.

On my way back, I stopped at Creekbread Pizza. They make wood fire pizza and had great reviews online. I sat at the bar and ordered two different pizzas split in half so I could try two different kinds. It was delicious and provided left-overs for the following day.

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It was nice having a fun two days. In the U.S., Black Friday shopping has gotten out of control. Instead of shopping for the latest deal, I was just living life, talking with people and having experiences. I’ll take that any day over a discounted flat-screen TV.

Post Edited By: Mandy Strider
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Day 96-97: Whales in Tofino, Vancouver Island

I woke up in my bachelor pad Airbnb and used the restroom. Coming back to my room, I noticed my key inside the keyhole. I was very confused as to how it got there. Was that my key? Was it the owner’s second key? I was pretty sure I took the key out, but I couldn’t find mine. Great, I slept with the key inside the keyhole so anybody could have just walked inside.

I drove to downtown Vancouver so I could check out a store called Long Tall Sally. They make clothes for tall women and closed all of their US locations several years ago. I’ve had to order clothes online and this was my chance to try on some clothes in person. Driving through the city was frustrating and I was realizing more and more that I don’t want to live in a large city any longer.

I hate trying on clothes. It seems stores put the worst lighting in there. Plus, my weight is always fluctuating and it makes me feel depressed when clothes don’t fit. After purchasing a couple of items, I walked over to a coffee shop. The girl behind the counter rounded down the total because I was paying with cash and Canada got rid of the penny. She said they’ll probably get rid of the nickel soon.

After I got my coffee, I drove to the ferry terminal to go to Vancouver Island. I arrived at 1:50 pm and the next ferry left at 3:30 pm. The attendant said if the ferry was full, I’d have to wait until the next one at 5:30 pm. It cost $75 and I patiently waited in my car, praying there was a spot available. Thankfully, I was the last car allowed to board!

The ferry ride was beautiful. In the distance, I could see the high-rises in Vancouver. I love taking ferries as a mode of transportation because it has the added bonus of being a scenic boat ride. I wandered outside to take in the view. It was a clear day and the sun reflected off the water. We passed islands and mountains that reminded me of Norway.

The announcer made the call to return to our vehicles, so I made my way down the stairs to the lower car deck. A girl around nine years old was yelling and said, “F*ck!” Her mother said, “I didn’t think it could get any worse, but you just did it. Don’t talk like that.” The young girl started to hit her mother and the mother calmly replied, “Don’t hit me.” The girl hit her several more times as the mother kept saying, “Stop hitting me.” When we arrived at the car deck, the girl ran off as the mother shouted, “Stop!” I couldn’t resist any longer and I got right behind the little girl and sternly said, “You should show some respect.” She turned around at me with a shocked look on her face as she slowly walked back towards her mother.

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When we arrived, I started driving towards Torino. It would take a few hours to get there because it was on the other side of the island. The drive was beautiful and felt undiscovered. I drove through the tree-filled mountains, passing still lakes as the sun disappeared.

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During the drive, the Brett Kavanaugh hearing was taking place and Facebook offered the option to watch it live. I still had cell service so I played the video and I listened to it while I drove. I had the time so I was able to listen to most of the hearing. In my regular life, I wouldn’t have the time to listen to the whole hearing and instead would have to rely on news outlets to recap it. It felt awesome to be able to get the whole picture and to make my own conclusions. I didn’t have to rely on a reporter’s opinion about what happened. Most news outlets in the US unfortunately no longer report the facts without adding their personal opinion to it.

When I studied broadcasting and film in college in 2000, we were taught not to add our opinion. As a reporter, you are to remain neutral and report the facts. You shouldn’t cry when reporting about murders, for example. You just report the facts and let people come to their own conclusions. I don’t know of any news outlet in the US that simply report the facts without including biases. So for the first time in a very long time, I could simply listen to testimony and make up my own mind. I was surprised by how many people on Facebook used the phrase “believe all women.” Personally, I believe in listening to every case (testimony and evidence) before I will simply believe something.

It got dark at 7:30 pm and I didn’t arrive at my Airbnb until 9:00 pm. I had a hard time finding it on the dark country roads. The owner talked with me and helped me find it. It was more like a small lodge or a motel. I had my own room, complete with a creepy spider in the bathroom sink. At this point, all I could do was laugh since a spider was in almost every single place I stayed.

I updated my blog and went to bed late that night, so I slept in the following morning. When I opened my front double-doors I had an amazing view!

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I found two hikes in the temperate rainforest that were just a five-ten minute drive. I drove there and started to hike “trail A.” It was humid outside, but still slightly cool. I prefer temperate over tropical rainforests because they’re much cooler, but offer all of the greenery.

The trail had a wooden bridge path that wound its way through the forest with steps guiding me down and back up. Once I completed that trail, I walked across the road and did “trail B.” This was a similar trail that had a boardwalk. I passed giant trees, climbed lots of stairs, and listened to the birds sing.

Once I completed these trails, I hiked on a small trail that led to the ocean. I couldn’t have asked for better weather.

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I signed up for an afternoon whale watching tour so I drove to the meeting place. The guide said this was their last tour of the season and I was happy I made it just in time. Our group put on full-body life jackets and we walked towards the boat. There was a family of four with adult children, two couples, and another single female. They were all from Germany. On the walk over, I talked with the single female. She said that she and her partner shipped their RV from Germany and are spending a year in Canada and the US. They started in Baltimore and explored a little bit of the east coast and then drove the Trans Canada Highway to the west coast. They planned to spend the winter in Carmel, California.

We boarded the small inflatable boat and rapidly took to the ocean. The boat was loud and the quick motor meant the guide didn’t talk while we were in route. The ride was so fun! We blasted through the water, skipping off waves in search of whales. At one point, our guide got a call that there were some whales in a specific area so we waited for them to surface.

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As we sat there waiting patiently, the boat rocked up and down with each wave. I get motion sickness on boats when I can feel waves. I tried hard to convince myself that I was fine, but I was on the verge of throwing up. I slowly reached into my water-tight bag to find my Dramamine. I didn’t have any water with me and even with water, I struggle to swallow pills. However, the motion sickness was so bad, I gathered spit in my mouth and was able to get the pill down. Thankfully, it worked pretty fast and I avoided having to chuck over the side of the boat.

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All of a sudden, a whale popped up from the water! We mostly just saw the water being sprayed from his blowhole, but then we were able to see the top of his back as he went back into the water. We stayed at the spot for around 30 minutes and were able to see two whales from a distance coming up and back down a few times.

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Our guide received a call saying a baby whale about three years old was in a nearby cove. They knew of this whale and our guide was excited as he raced over to the cove. We were the only boat there and as we patiently waited, the baby whale popped up right beside our boat! Normally the guides stay farther back so they don’t scare or injure the whales, but they said this baby whale liked to surprised boats like that. It was so awesome to watch him swim around us.

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Next, we went over to some rocks sticking out of the water where a lot of sea lions were sunbathing. After watching them jump into the ocean, we drove over to an area where otters were hanging out among seaweed and logs. They looked like little stuffed animals just playing around.

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The sun was setting and we sat there watching it sparkle on the water. We made our way to shore just in time to watch the sun make its final descent.

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I said my goodbyes to the group and drove over to a fish shack that had good reviews. I ate outside in the dark with a dimly-lit light above the table. As I ate, I surfed Facebook and saw post after post on both sides of the issue about the Kavanaugh hearing. I tried to tell myself to stop reading. Stop surfing. It was only making me angry and ruining the good feelings I had from whale watching. Eventually, I put the phoneaway and tried my best to be in the moment and enjoy my fish.

Post Edited By: Mandy Strider
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