The Last Post From the Road (for a while)

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We came down from Joshua Tree on December 17th, and drove straight into a giant traffic jam (there’s a picture on the previous post). Then we sat in the traffic jam for two days, with a few little trips on the side, including one to Santa Monica, where we accidentally illegally walked Lucy on the beach. People were giving us dirty looks, but I just assumed that that was how LA dwellers smile at cute dogs (this is not true – I knew they were dirty looks but just assumed that was normal).

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We managed to get almost the whole way to Venice Beach before we were booted off.

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And then I remembered that I had my skates in the car, so this happened….

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And a little bit of this….

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And then back in the car. We don’t really have any pictures of the real highlights of LA, which were, for me, FINALLY going to the Museum of Jurassic Technology and the Center for Land Use Interpretation. Both were amazing, and both gave me a number of ideas for a possible project on museums.

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This is a sign from the bathroom at the Center for Land Use Interpretation. It made me laugh.

And of course there was a lot of good coffee, and a lot of good food. And a squirrel in a tree eating an avocado. Out of focus, but somehow totally LA.

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We left LA on the 19th, and drove up Highway 1 along the coast, as far as Arroyo Grande, where we stayed with a couple of über cute dogs.

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One of the highlights en route was the pier at Santa Barbara – home to a pack of pelicans who don’t seem to mind having their photos taken by tourists.

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And one that was just sitting on the pier, about 3 feet away.

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Puppy love in Arroyo Grande.

From Arroyo Grande, the highway goes up the coast almost the whole way to San Francisco. It is beautiful and rugged and wild (except for the factory farming of strawberries taking place in some communities on the other side of the road).

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It’s hard to take pictures that show the height of some of the hills, but those things that look like weeds are actually giant palm trees on the beach very, very far below us.

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There are fun places to stop – like a house made of beer cans and other detritus.

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A crazy hotel with a tonne of bizarre theme rooms (and a waterfall urinal).

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Murals for good posing opportunities.

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And this beach!! Okay, so I realize that looks like a giant beach full of dead seals, but it’s actually a picture of lots of sleepy elephant seals napping in the sun.

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They in fact move around quite a bit and make weird farty noises all the time, so they look much more alive in real life than they do in the pictures.

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Lucy couldn’t really see them, but her sniffer told her something was going on. Perhaps she thought they were sea donkeys or something, because she then proceeded to nearly lose her mind (and body) trying to shove herself off the viewing platform for a closer inspection. That would not have been a good idea – they are large and noisy and they get in fights (when they’re not snoozing in the sun).

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From there it was just more gorgeous scenery, the whole way up to Big Sur.

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A waterfall right on to the beach!

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Big Sur had had a huge wildfire just before we got there. In fact, it was still burning, but the roads were open. A lot of people lost their homes though, and there was ash falling from the sky. You could see some of the damage from the road, but not the full extent of it. The whole area was so dry, and later someone told us that Big Sur is in a three year drought. Everything is so beautiful, but it did look like it could just go up in flames at a moment’s notice.

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It took a while to reach San Francisco. We stayed with our friends Nicole and Jessie, who heard about the “Museums Tour 2013” and took us to some great ones.

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One of my favourites was the Columbarium. Apparently if you die in San Francisco, you can’t be buried there (primarily, it seems, because of property values). The Columbarium was once an Odd Fellows cemetery, but they had to abandon it when a series of laws passed at the turn of the twentieth century forbade both burial and cremation in San Francisco. Beginning in 1929, bodies were moved out of San Francisco, most of them to the small town of Colma. Accordingly, today Colma is a city of cemeteries, and the dead out-number the living 1000:1. They also have the motto of “It’s Great to be Alive in Colma!” Har har. Today, the Columbarium is non-denomational, and it remains one of the few places where you can actually be dead in San Francisco. Before we went, Nicole told me that many of the holding places in the Columbarium are like tiny museums. They really are – most of them have urns, but some of them are decorated with mementoes and photos – it’s really amazing, and reminded me that all museums are in some way a marker or a holder against death and forgetting.

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At the opposite end of the scale, we also went to Musée Mecanique, which is essentially a collection of new and old arcade games, some dating back to the 1910s, but still functional. Above is Laughing Sal. You put a quarter in, and she laughs louder and louder – it’s really creepy.

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And some of them are hugely offensive. This one, which actually had a label, was one of the least offensive! They fart, that’s about it.

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And a ferris wheel (that works for a quarter) made out of toothpicks, by prisoners at Alcatraz.

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Amazing view from a dog park on the top of the world.

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We ended our visit to San Francisco first at a bar with an anthropology museum in it.

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Specs Bar – everyone should check it out if they’re in San Fran.

And then we went to a fondue bar with a jazz band. Tim hates fondue, I really don’t like jazz. We had an amazing evening (seriously and without irony).

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On the way out of San Francisco we stopped at Muir Woods, along with every single other San Franciscan. It’s an old growth forest, and it is stunning. But it was sort of overrun when we were there, and we didn’t spend as long as we might have. They were, I think, the biggest trees I’ve ever seen.

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From there we basically hit the road. We had three days to get to Vancouver for Christmas Eve, and it was a bit of a marathon.

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The scenery was stunning though. We drove through Sonoma wine country.

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Into the mountains.

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And into a cloud somewhere outside of Portland, that lasted all the way to Vancouver.

But we made it. All the way to Vancouver in time for Christmas.

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Christmas morning with family. Collaborative lego assemblage.

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Lucy snoozing close to the action.

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new Christmas sweaters!

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an almost family portrait (except that Connor hid behind Fraser, and Tim had to take the picture). And it’s out of focus. But still!

We spent a week in Vancouver. It was really nice – catching up with family, seeing the city again, recovering from the trip, and taking Lucy on lots of walks. Lucy loved Vancouver. And she especially loved Lynn Canyon.

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You can see the Suspension Bridge above us in this picture.

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Where to next?

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Rice Lake

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English Bay

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We took Lucy on the Aquabus. She was totally unimpressed and clung to the floor the whole time.

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And finally, someone kayaking with an umbrella, because it’s Vancouver.

On January 1 we left for Victoria. It was plus 10 degrees, while in was “colder than Mars” back in Ontario and Quebec. In fact, people here were complaining about the frost. I was thinking about walking around in shorts. We’re here for two months, in a pretty sweet little apartment near a park and the beach. Lucy keeps going to the car wondering where we’ll go next, but I’m pretty content to stay in one place for a while.