Thursday, March 20, 2014

Lost in the Wilds of Canada

Note:  This is our next to the last blog installment regarding our autumn, 2013 travels.

Miz Garmin II endeared herself during my plein air odyssey through the Pacific Northwest.  She warned me about upcoming curves, told me where to exit roundabouts so I wouldn't get dizzy, and even when I should make a U-turn because I hadn't been listening.  And never once did she lose her temper although I gave her every reason to.  Never!  Karen should be so lucky when she drives and I'm the copilot.

She was fast becoming a real part of my driving team -- the steering wheel, brake, accelerator, cassette player and now, Miz Garmin II.  We were all together, solid, unshakable.   Life on the road was good.  That is, until we crossed the US -- Canadian border on our way back to Alaska.  All I can figure is Miz Garmin II. had reverted to her second childhood -- like a loose toddler in a shopping mall.  Suddenly she had me driving out in fields, up mountainsides and along the bottoms of rivers -- often out of sight of the road.  I was pretty sure I was on an asphalt surface that would lead me home, but she wanted me elsewhere.  Without another road in sight and with the highway bending to the right, she'd suddenly blurt out "turn left."  If I didn't follow her commands, she'd repeatedly insist I turn left.  I began to think she wanted to do away with me, perhaps to find a better listener for a driver.

Miz Garmin II wanted to send me back and forth across this field and up the distant mountainsides along southern British Columbia's Crowsnest Highway

Had I followed her instructions, I would have driven through barbed wire fences, crashed into trees and drowned myself in the Fraser River.  She would show me driving on the far side of a lake on the left side of the road, then suddenly dart across the highway without even looking for oncoming traffic to send me up a cliff on the right side of the highway.  Our mutual trust was shattered.

Miz Garmin II must have thought our Mazda Tribute was equipped with water wings to run through this pond along British Columbia's Cariboo Highway.

She didn't even make an attempt to avoid these trees before routing us into this lake along central British Columbia's Yellowhead Highway.

In desperation, I pushed her button of last resort, "Restore Factory Settings."  Oh boy, was that a bad idea.  Then she wouldn't even tell me how far it was to my next destination and when I'd ask her to show me the nearest motel -- while I was parked in front of a Super 8 deep in the "wilds" of Canada, she'd suggest someplace in Washington state, over 200 miles away.

Finally, I had to do what Karen insists I always do.  I stopped listening -- just tuned her out or sometimes, when our relationship had reached that tipping point, shut her off.

Oh, Miz Garmin II, can we ever go back to how we used to relate?

              To play it "safe" I turned Miz Garmin II off so I could enjoy these aspens near Smithers, British Columbia.

Meanwhile Karen was spending her waning days at Four Mile Lake in northern Wisconsin -- getting ready for her long trip home.  Was this a final farewell?  Hopefully not!

Four Mile Lake neighbors are friendly and love Karen so she can wander through their manicured "yards" during daily walks.

            Wetlands such as this swampy area near Four Mile Lake are a little less inviting for casual morning strolls.

Perhaps the condition of this white birch leaf best reflected the wistful feelings in Karen's heart as she bid farewell to Four Mile Lake for the season.. It was time to begin her long trip home to Alaska. 

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

An Offer to Paint a Mural

The retired apple grower who ran the motel where I stayed in Washington's Okanagan Valley assured me he had the cheapest and quietest lodging in town.  I suspected he was right about quietest.  When I had looked over his only competition at the junction of the two highways that lead into Tonasket, a motorcycle pushed his hog to the limit as he tore up the hill next to that motel.  I took that as a omen and didn't even bother inquiring.

                              My first view of Tonasket in Washington's portion of the Okanagan Valley

The owner, Chris, turned over a bunch of wrinkled pages to see what my options included, scratched out a few of his previous scribbles, hummed and hawed a bit and announced he could fix me up.  Wow, I thought, a motel owner who doesn't use a computer or the Internet.  You're certainly not going to book a room here online.

It turned out Chris, who was born and raised in New York City and has a photo of himself finishing that famous marathon on his wall, has a taste for art.  Soon he was taking me into every empty room in his motel, proudly showing me murals on the concrete walls that had been painted in 1981 by one Don Harris.

When I showed interest, he took me into his apartment to show me paintings he had purchased in New York forty years ago.  The paintings showed a refined sense of taste -- painted by artists I could even find on the Internet under categories like, "what is this guy's art worth."  I showed Chris what I found on the internet and even he was impressed.

Before we were done, I showed Chris my latest plein air effort.  I didn't think he was impressed until he offered me the opportunity to paint a mural on the side of his motel.  I wonder if I should accept the offer.  I could see plenty of painting subjects in all directions from Tonasket.

While we were discussing art, a heavily tattooed guest came in to close a deal to sell Chris his cell phone.  In earlier discussions they had agreed to $50, but in their ongoing discussion, the seller (not Chris) negotiated down to $40.  I'd like to do business with him.  That night, as I ducked into my room after dinner, I noticed the door of the tattooed guy's room ajar with a recognizable scent wafting through the air.  Pot!  And here I thought all of Chris's rooms were non-smoking.

That night in room 24, using a key with a number something like 53187 ("you can't be too careful in case the key is lost," Chris told me) I got one of Karen's foot soakers. It seems that when I flushed the toilet, not all the water to refill the bowl went to it’s assigned location.  I dreaded telling Chris the news so I just wrapped a towel around the base of the toilet and wrote him a note -- after washing my foot -- sort of.  It seems Chris must have been concerned about guests burning themselves in hot water.  Such was not a concern in room 24.

Would I stay there again?  Of course -- although maybe not in room 24! You'd never collect these kind of memories at The Hilton.

Driving west from Sherman Pass, openings created by the 1988 White Mountain fire afford one their first glimpse of the Okanagan Valley.

Leaving the Colville National Forest, westbound travelers encounter farmland Farmland east of Tonasket, Washingotn.

While I explored parts of Tonasket as suggested by Chris, Karen -- with her cousin Connie -- savored memories of summers growing up on the shores of Four Mile Lake near Three Lakes, Wisconsin.

                                               The Groth family dock on the shores of Four Mile Lake.

A descendent of generations of chipmunks that Karen fed over many decades during summers at the Groth family cabin.

While Karen has been a surrogate mother for generations of rodents (squirrels and chipmunks), snowshoe hares lack interest in her offerings of peanuts and sunflower seeds.

A garter snake was as surprised by Karen as she was by it.  Interestingly, although northern Wisconsin has colder winters than much of coastal Alaska, and our northern-most state even has a few amphibians such as salamanders, frogs and toads, Alaska has no reptiles.