A brief note

Right, so the week has begun and I was checking my phone and remembered this text from my brother:

Sweet. Now go get some rest 🙂

Not.

Last week I flew back to Minnesota for a whirlwind trip, mostly to get my Father-in-law’s computer working the way he wants it to work. Which turned out to be rather more frustrating than it should have been (thank you Apple.)

The bro’ kindly lent me his floor, and bought me dinner, and gave me coffee.

But the largest amount of conscious time on the trip was actually spent driving. See, it costs about $1300 Canadian Dollars for round-trip airfare to Minneapolis, but using Elizabeth’s air miles I can get a round trip to Winnipeg for about $75. Renting a car for three days is another $300, and about $150 in gas means I still pay less than half the cost of flying directly.

Plus about 16 hours of my time. More when you include meals and a hotel room at each end.

Anyway, flew in, drove down, did stuff, reversed the route and arrived back in Vancouver, and got that text suggesting I should rest up.

But what I actually had to do was hit the ground running because in three hours I needed to pick up Elizabeth and drive to Osoyoos, BC, where she had a reasonably important meeting for a rural-urban health care committee. Before that could happen I needed to bring the cats to kitty prison, pack the car with stuff, drop off keys with the kid, and reinstall the server keys on my computer.

Suffice to say I managed that step, although the kid was on a job site far out of the expected path on the north shore. I made it with 3 minutes to spare.

Driving to Osoyoos is anything but straightforward. The Okanogan River drains a plateau region bordered by mountain ranges; its unique geography results in a desert climate, but the surrounding mountain range watersheds drain through it. The result is a micro climate which is mostly desert, but a reasonable supply of fresh surface waters which feed into the Okanogan (which itself is a tributary of the Columbia River.) Long northern summer days and irrigation result in excellent agriculture, especially of fruit trees and grape vines.

OSM map of the region.

But getting there means driving through high mountains which surround the plateau. The three primary routes from the west are winding and heavily graded – up to 11% grades, which is darned steep. The southern route is officially the shortest, and the squirrelliest, and it was the one we took on the way out there.

You may have heard that BC is experiencing a few wild fires? and you may be complaining of a bit of smoke drifting eastward? well, we passed a couple of fires on that southern route, and the smoke was so thick at times it looked like driving through pea soup fog. High beams were not helpful.

Note the specks of grey ash on the glass table top. Copyright © 2018 Wayne and Elizabeth Saewyc

But we did arrive, in only about 5.5 hours. And we stayed at a lovely resort which, shockingly, was not full to the brim with summer vacationers. We even ended up with a room which sometimes had a view of the lake; we were assured that when the valley wasn’t filled with smoke we could see the peaks all around, and the lake, and even down into the USA. It didn’t happen that way for us.

Not surprising, this northern-most desert in North America has become a centre of viniculture. And we were invited to an amazing wine pairings dinner that evening. I am sure, at any other time, it would have been a life-altering event. But having a 3 course dinner al fresco (though under a solid shading roof) while ash gently drifted down and listening to a wine evangelist rhapsodizing on the 6 different rare/unusual vintages from little-known artisan vineyards was exotic but probably not the effect originally intended. On the other hand, the food really was stunning, and a couple of the wines.

And the next day we took the northernmost route back home – further, but much easier on the three little squirrels cowering in the back of the Smart ForTwo (who were also pushing a case of wine home with us.) And, amusingly, the return trip took 6 hours.

Not a restful end to the week. But I spent the weekend recovering. And this is my response to that text.

 

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