On the road out of Seattle toward Squamish, British Columbia, with my laptop on my knees. “Classic Vinyl” Rock is playing on the Sirius radio. The Chrysler Town and Country van we rented for the month has a smooth ride, juicy engine and most important, a roomy back area with no seats, because I don’t want to sleep anywhere that bears can get in.
The day has been wonderfully overwhelming so far. Mike left early via taxi to pick up the van somewhere, and I contemplated my suitcase. What was appropriate to wear for a day of upscale socializing in downtown Seattle, ending after twelve to fifteen hours, in a cabin somewhere in the woods. I decided on my new Columbia
hiking tee shirt and my first-ever pair of ripstop nylon hiking pants with the zip-off legs, with a sweater or scarf to dress it up. I put on the outfit and felt official.
Ever worn real, all-weather, wicking hiking clothes before? Me neither. Anyway they sound rustle-y when you move. I whisked and rustled all day but eventually got used to it, and the outfit, dressed up, didn’t look like what it was.
We met three writer friends in Seattle proper for breakfast after Mike returned to get me with the van. Kim Hornsby and Christine Fairchild wrote suspense novels that were part of our recent Passion and Danger box set, and along with my daughter’s childhood friend Heather Martin-Murdoch, we ladies talked about writing while Mike endured patiently. Finishing a delicious breakfast at The Skillet which Facebook friends had recommended as “must see breakfast place in Seattle” (I had a Mexican concoction with avocadoes substituted for eggs, quite delicious) Mike and I and Heather got on the road to the Chihuly Gardens, where another writer friend, Faith Leach, had left tickets for us. THANKS, FAITH! I’m so sorry it didn’t work out to meet you in person.
The Gardens were simply amazing. Chihuly’s little pamphlet that comes with the entry fee says this: “I want people to be overwhelmed with light and color in a way they’ve never experienced.” Well, that goal was achieved. Pictures just don’t do it justice, and if you only have one thing you have time to do in Seattle (as we did) let it be this one.
The fun didn’t stop there. We bid fond goodbye to Heather who’s going to inherit our camping gear at the end of the trip, and took the elevator to the top of the Space Needle, where we met my Kindle World editor at Amazon, Sean Fitzgerald, and his elegant wife, Denise. She works at a company that makes high quality, heavy duty camera drones for filmmaking. Mike and I thoroughly enjoyed a delicious lunch “talking story” with this wonderful couple and goggling at the whole city, lovely and well-groomed as a green tartan skirt, spread all around and below us.
I got to tell Sean in person how much I’ve enjoyed Lei Crime Kindle World and working with the many writers developing Lei stories. I confess I teared up at how exciting it’s been, what a revelation it’s been as a writer to see the creativity of others expanding on my characters. I had no idea it would be so emotional and fulfilling, and we all got a little shiny around the eyes that we get to share in this adventure together.
Getting on the road out of the city by two p.m. was hectic, but with Lady Google to guide us, relatively painless, but we were behind schedule so by the time we got to Bellingham, where we were picking up a vanload of preordered camping gear, we didn’t have time to do more with our dear friend, writer and Hawaii lover Janet Oakley, than talk as we roamed the aisles of Walmart with a shopping cart looking for the right rain jacket, bug spray, paper towels, butane fuel, etcetera.
Mike eventually took over and that gave Janet and I time to suck down some McDonald’s coffee drinks while discussing her next novella for the Lei Crime Kindle World, centering around a murder than happened when the great tsunami hit Hilo in 1946, starring Wendy Watanabe, the cheeky and enterprising reporter in the Lei Crime Series who gets Lei’s back up while getting to the bottom of her stories.
Even later, we got on the road for the ominously-named town of Squamish somewhere outside of Vancouver, and all was well until we hit the Canadian border and lost Lady Google as our Verizon and data plan no longer worked. That meant navigating the old fashioned way: checking a map, looking for minute and badly-marked street signs, and generally getting lost and annoyed near the end of an exciting but energy-draining day.
Still, we didn’t do too badly navigating Vancouver, a very clean city, but with oddly-angled glass windows on the high-rises that somehow had a jarring, foreign effect visually. “It’s like all the buildings were designed as a nineteen-fifties take on what mid-twentieth century architecture would be like, only they ended up wrong,” I said, feeling loquacious. Mike thought a single contractor with a lot of glass to get rid of got the bid for the whole city. Anyway, I’m sure many would call it attractive but something about it was odd, to our eyes.
That wasn’t the end of the day, though it was nine p.m. by the time we were lost for the second time trying to get out of Vancouver after a bathroom break at a Tim Horton’s whose restrooms were closed. I ended up buying sodas at a Subway just to pee while Mike kept the van running to avoid having to feed a meter for which we had no Canadian coin.
Once outside of Vancouver, Highway 99 was a sensuous and sultry ribbon unwinding along lush mountains overlooking a stretch of water lit with the dim gold of an extended sunset. A bald eagle flew by. Blue veils of mist teased us with layered mountain views studded by majestic mountains still robed in snow, light stroking over the glassy water before us. As the day waned in an extended foreplay of extravagant beauty, we drove along a road bordered by harsh cement girders with no turnouts, pullouts, vista points or other ways to capture the stunning event.
Only another photographer can fully appreciate the palpable frustration of driving along a truly stunning stretch of road, a fantastic sunset happening, and being unable to get the shot. Mike pulled perilously off the shoulder several times, running across the freeway with his camera in hand, but it was an exercise in futility. My husband is essentially a hunter by nature, and photos are what he hunts. He was almost growling by the time the sun went down and I wasn’t much better.
“I’m writing the Canadian tourist board,” he said, only half joking. “I’m an unsatisfied customer.”
“Just be here now,” I quoted Ram Dass, as much to myself as to him. “Let’s try to remember it.”
He just shook his head. We’ve both noticed how hard it is to remember things as we age, and our photography helps us with that, so it was an especially long way from lunch on Amazon’s expense account at the Space Needle to when we finally rolled into a casino outside of Squamish at ten p.m. to get directions to cabins that had become highly elusive in the dark. Once again we’d underestimated our dependence on the internet, and not having our cell phones working or Lady Google directing us complicated things.
It’s so inconvenient that Canada is a foreign country. I still can’t quite believe it, because I feel right at home.