January 30th, 2020

It’s been a somewhat quiet life lately. The dog is doing good. The weather has started getting a little better, and we are getting more daylight finally (about 15 minutes a week!). The Scotty is ready for a trip. I, too, am ready to go somewhere.

So thats what I did.

I went to Montana a few weeks ago. It was good to get out of the house. It’s good to see family and we had a good visit. It is always risky driving that way this time of year but I made it without incident despite the best intentions of some of the careless drivers I encountered. Good thing I have the flexibility of nowhere to be and all day to get there…but I didn’t really need it since I left early to get back home between storms. I always keep an eye on the weather when I travel and build in a day or two of padding.

Snoqualmie Pass – Washington

Snoqualmie Pass – Washington

Of course Rider turned into a hellion while there and ended up getting grounded a few times. He did good on the way and loves the road! We got him registered while there and his papers came in the mail last week so now he is somebody..

Speaking of that flexibility, as I write this post I am actually on another adventure. I am taking an Amtrak train trip to Vancouver, British Columbia.

Pacific Central Station – Vancouver, BC

I have wanted to go to Vancouver for a while and have wanted to do it by train. The clincher for me was I had a voucher for a free hotel room that I needed to use this week so I took great advantage of that and found an expensive hotel in downtown Vancouver to spend it on. It worked out to be a great opportunity for a train trip, albeit a fast one, to someplace new I wanted to see and experience and it will not cost me AS much.

Just prior to the last trip I took to Seattle I bought a new travel backpack. I got to try it out a little on that trip. It was definitely comfortable but I was still figuring out the packing. I am treating this like a trip to Europe (and it’s why I bought the backpack) so I packed it exactly how I would if I were going there. I think I have the packing dialed in pretty good so far but I am finding a few small packlng tweaks I will need to make before I go anywhere else. I’ll be walking around to get on transit and getting to and from the hotels so this is a great test run. It’s also not as silly-looking as walking around the neighborhood wearing a suitcase. Upon reflection, however, I have seen worse stumbling around the streets in my ‘hood.

Tuesday night I stayed at a hotel in Edmonds to make it easier to catch an earlier train the next morning so I can get to Vancouver sooner. I ended up walking 8.2 miles to shop and check things out in the area, and that’s on top of the bus rides I took.

Whenever I fly somewhere early out of Seattle I always stay in a hotel the night before so I am doing the same for this trip on the train. I always take full advantage of any shopping, dining or sightseeing that I can when I do an overnight. You have to maximize time when you travel so don’t just park your ass in the hotel…plan on finding some interesting things to do! I have some things I want to shop for so that will be something else to do on this trip.

My plan is (surprise) there is no plan since it is to be such a quick trip. I found several things I definitely want to see and do in my short visit but mostly it’s going to be spontaneous. I have a feeling I will be making another trip to Vancouver to see everything I want to see. Now that I am not working I can go when the weather is better without any time restrictions. I’m definitely excited about that!

Wednesday started out grey with a few sprinkles and there was more rain the farther north I went so the sightseeing along the coast wasn’t real good. I spent time in these waters running boats to various State Park islands so I have seen this area before and on some beautiful days. I’m just hoping that the weather is better in Vancouver.

Amtrak scenery on the Coast Starlight route


Coming Into Vancouver, BC

The train is definitely comfy and a relaxing way to travel. We did a lot of train travel in Europe two years ago and this trip brings back some good memories of that experience. I wish we had more passenger rail service in the US and if the rail companies would even add just a single passenger car on a train I bet they could get people on board.

I walked about 20 minutes over to the hotel through some seediness but I felt fairly safe or I would have just called a ride or taxi. Usually I won’t walk areas like that alone but it was just another adventure! Even with the train delayed about an hour and a half I arrive in Vancouver well before my hotel check-in time.

Vancouver, BC

Vancouver, BC

I got to my hotel and was able to check in early, drop my bags, and hit the town to find some sights and food. Pretty nice hotel for free (usually around $220/night!) and in a great location – right in downtown close to the arenas. I got on the elevator with a couple to go to our rooms. When we were getting off the elevator on the 10th floor I happened to notice that their baggage had tags from Air China. Damn. Hate to see that.

It turned out to be a nice day to be out and about – clear and a bit cool but very pleasant with a long sleeve shirt and rain shell. I walked around the area by the hotel to see what was going on and get my bearings. There was a lot happening and the usual interesting and exciting things: the noise and hustle and bustle of the city, people, restaurants, tourist shops, and cannabis stores.

View from my hotel – Vancouver, BC

Responsibly different than other countries, Canada has decided to be intelligent and realistic about cannabis (I prefer to say “cannabis” since I refuse to use the racist term “marijuana” that was coined by the government to scare people in the 1930s) and has legalized it nationwide (there are many reasons, most ignorant of facts and full of hypocrisy, why it’s illegal in the US; one news story even speaks (not surprisingly) of Cabinet-level government corruption in the 1930s involving Dow Chemical. Shocking, I know.).

Unlike Washington state, where you are supposed to smoke out of public view, in Canada you can just walk around smoking in public just as you would a cigarette. The pre-rolled joint packages have a Canadian tax stamp and you can even have the government send it to you through the mail! It’s not as cheap here as Washington though and purchasing bulk flower looks to be different than Washington.

It’s different than Amsterdam, too, in that cannabis is technically not legal there but is tolerated. From what I was told in Amsterdam you won’t get bothered by anyone for smoking in public as long as you are not blatant about it and the King and Queen are not in town. The Netherlands even says psilocybin truffles are legal BBC and they can be bought in what they call “smart shops”. These shops even sell cannabis seeds.

There were many restaurants, mostly Asian-style foods like noodles and most were my kind of place – small mom-and-pop joints – and there were a few chains like the local Japadog, Five Guys, The Clown, and The King.

I was still looking for something to eat but not sure what I wanted so I headed to Granville Island and the Granville Market hoping to find some cheap unique eats.

On the Waterfront – Granville Island, Vancouver, BC

On the Waterfront – Granville Island, Vancouver, BC

On the Waterfront – Granville Island, Vancouver, BC

It is similar to Pike Place in Seattle – mostly a place to get fresh produce and meats – but more outdoors like the old River Quay area in Kansas City, MO. It had only a few stalls to get cooked food but nothing really looked interesting at the time. I’ll visit again and have time to look around more. I caught a water taxi back across and went back into downtown.

View from the water taxi – Vancouver, BC

View from the water taxi – Vancouver, BC

View from the water taxi – Vancouver, BC

View from the water taxi – Vancouver, BC

View from the water taxi – Vancouver, BC

View from the water taxi – Vancouver, BC

I walked around more and was not sure what I wanted. A shawarma place looked good until I saw a guy that looked like the cook picking his nose so I decided to pick something too…another restaurant.

I decided on a Canadian chain. Tim Horton’s has really delicious coffee and a selection of food that is different than most fast food chains. I will eat at a local chain in other countries but usually not when I travel on vacation in tbe US. As a rule I don’t eat at American chains in other countries unless I find something unique at them. The “food” is usually garbage and I don’t like to eat like that stuff much these days. After Tim Horton’s I walked around for several hours more just taking it all in.

Inside the Vancouver Public Library – Vancouver, BC

I felt much less threatened walking around Vancouver than I do in Seattle, especially at night. Vancouver has, from what I have seen, fewer people just hanging out on the streets begging, pissing on the sidewalks, trashing everything and committing crimes which they never get prosecuted for – all the things that happen in Seattle. Granted, I don’t know as much about Vancouver that I know about the problems and crime that Seattle refuses to do anything to fix. Vancouver does have automated public toilets on the sidewalks and many other things to help keep the city clean.

I did get a taxi to the train this morning as I was told by hotel staff that walking back to the train would be a bad idea (and I thought it was a bad idea too given the areas I walked through near the station to get to my hotel). However, I mainly thought that it was a bad idea because it was not only five in the morning but also because I walked 10.2 miles yesterday. My legs are tired!

Amtrak King Street Station – Seattle, WA

All told, the trip definitely went by too fast but it was a great adventure and I finally got to do this trip. With the train getting delayed it threw my day off so I did not get to see and do as much as I wanted to. I’ll do it again and stay a few days next time. Vancouver is a really fun and interesting city to hang out in and I want to do another trip there but maybe have someone to go with. Lots of great people watching, a vast selection of great foods, many exciting things to see and do and a great transit system that makes it cheap and easy to get around. However, like cities in Europe, I have other places I want to visit and usually do not spend my travel time repeatedly going to the same places; a trip of 1-3 days a time or two is plenty. It’s too big of a world to spend it all in one place!

That’s all for now. Check back soon for more fun and exciting adventures!