Vancouver/Whistler - Gold for Canada!

Trip Start Jul 20, 2007
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Canada  , British Columbia,
Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Today would be a cinch. Rather than a long, arduous eight hour drive, all we had to do was drive just a few hours north of Seattle and we would be back in Canada again. Before relaxing though, we found ourselves being interrogated by the Canadian customs inspector: How far south did you travel? How many days did it take you to get from there to here? How many goals did Wayne Gretzky score during the 1984 final of the Stanley Cup? Colin had no idea (especially when it came to Hockey), but Melissa didn't blink at these questions and we passed on through to the warm and luscious green land of Canada. That was what hit us as we passed Vancouver on our way up to Richmond: just how green and beautiful it all was this side of the continent.
The other thing of note that had us puzzled as we approached our destination, was why were all the traffic lights blinking green - should they be doing that? In Toronto if you come up to a blinking green light it means that you can turn left across the traffic, without fear of being hit.  But not so in British Columbia, nooo.  It means here that you kind of, sort of have right of way, but you had better be wary crossing through those lights incase someone wants to make an impatient dash through from one of the side streets, just because it's actually legal for them to that. I guess that means that there is one kind of light which makes sense: the red light. As a result, the traffic was quite congested while we were there.
After meeting up with our friend (Joshua's dad) Marcel who we would be staying with, we headed off to get something to eat, but first we stopped at his current place of work. He is currently the site foreman for building the 2010 Winter Olympic Oval. The Oval will house the long and short speed skating events. It is incredible to see the giant stadium coming to life and from his description of how it will look, we can't wait to see the finished project and see the Olympiads compete in it!
We decided to spend our full day in British Columbia visiting Stanley Park and checking out Whistler, where most of the Olympic Games will be held. This would be our GPS automated tour guide Mandy/Amanda's last day of directing us and it turned into quite a comical adventure. She ended up getting us quite lost on our way out of Stanley Park. First of all it was 'Acquiring Satellite' and then she kept changing her mind from a right turns to a left turns and at one point we went around in a complete circle after following her advice. After we had had enough of her, we changed her over to the more sensible Amanda and this sudden shift in personality over to the stern English woman from the flighty Californian, made all the difference. She soon corrected our course to one that might actually get us where we wanted to go.

The public transport in Vancouver is kind of different to that of Toronto. They have a hybrid between a bus and a street car - look no tracks! After a while you get used to this and it suddenly seems like a better approach. For one thing: no ripping up the road every summer to fix the tracks. That and the ability to 'transform' from tracked to trackless travel, giving you more flexibility. Still, there is something unsettling about suddenly noticing a bus rolling silently along, powered by overhead electricity cables, rather than lurching and gurgling along as is the usual mode for buses.
On the way up to Whistler we encountered a majestic view of beautiful snow capped mountains with valleys filled with sparkling water beneath. They were doing some hard core road widening in preparation for the Olympics, which is harder than you would think when a mountain is involved. Most of the way up the roads looked like a war zone had hit, with pulverized rocks scattered all around. There were bits of the mountain missing, missing portions pushed over the downward side, giant bulldozers pushing pieces of rock from here to there and trucks lurking around with yet more fragments that they had to get rid of somehow.
We eventually made our way up to Whistler where we were surprised to find that a lot of people were out holidaying there, despite the fact that it is predominantly a skiing town. The parking area was packed to the brim - It looked very much like the car park of a shopping mall on the day before Christmas. Well after finding a spot or rather 'creating' a spot for our car, we wandered around the beautiful (rather touristy) town of Whistler. Most of the people had bicycles or cars with bicycles attached. There were some pretty keen looking 'extreme riders' who were decked out in full body armour, for their rush down the snow-less slopes. So rather than risking life and limb, we got back into our car and headed home - We needed to get ready for a rather hardcore day of traveling tomorrow.
Here's the plan: Get up at 4am, Fly down to San Francisco, a slight delay prior to flying off to Las Vegas. Then jump into a car, drive for four hours and arrive at the Grand Canyon just as the sun is setting. Take some dazzling pictures, contemplate how big it is (and probably how hot it is too) and then collapse exhausted into a rented hotel room.
Yes, it is a cunning plan that hinges on everything snapping together in synchronicity - like clockwork!
As I write this, we are sitting in the San Francisco airport with our plain delayed now for an hour now...
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