Archive | July 2014

Point Roberts: 5 sq. miles of America

In less than a week, the Marmite-to-Maple family will be driving down to Oregon for our annual August-long weekend beach getaway. I love love love the Oregon Coast, but I hate hate HATE the drive down. We’ve never waited for less than 3 hours at the border, and always hit traffic at Seattle, no matter what time of day. Just when the gridlock ends and you think you’re making progress, you hit another wall of parked cars and realize you’re only at Tacoma. Last time we drove down (to get Dave!) I swore I would never ever do that drive again. However, we’re not willing to pay to take Dave on a plane, so here I am about to embark on the annual journey from hell. This time, we came up with the brainwave of heading to the US in advance to pay for our $6 visa waivers so that we don’t have to do that part of the wait (usually 2 hours with Dave crying in a kennel) next week. So on Friday night we booked a Zipcar and headed down to Point Roberts, Washington.

Point Roberts, Washington

Point Roberts, Washington

Point Roberts is one of those weird geographical anomalies that happens when countries set boundaries without really thinking everything through. According to Wikipedia, the correct term is ‘pene-exclave‘, but most Vancouverites know it as ‘the peninsula that sticks out past Tsawwassen which is in the US’. It’s a very small, 1300 population, 5 square mile area which happens to lie just below the 49th parallel, so was separated from Canada after the Oregon Treaty in 1846. The bizarre thing about it is that it’s only accessible by land from Canada, not from mainland US. If you want to avoid Canada (and why would you?) you have get a boat to the Washington coast. American children in grade 4 or higher have to drive through Canada and cross two borders to get to school in Blaine, WA. Crazy. Point Roberts is very popular with Canadians looking for cheap gas (prices are 20c a litre cheaper than Canada), an American shipping address and summer vacation cabins. And also for immigrants like us who need a quiet, close Canadian border to get a visa-waiver or  activate work visas or Permanent Residence. My brother got the bus to Tsawwassen and walked across the border and back so he could get his Permanent Residence a few months ago, and waited in line approximately 2 hours less than we did when we went to Blaine. So off we went to do the same on Friday!

Looking back up to the beach to Canada

Looking back up to the beach to Canada

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Travels with Dave: Wine, cheese and beaches in the Okanagan Valley

BREAKING NEWS: I have now seen some of British Columbia! I got in a car, drove east (not south), and spent four days exploring the sunshine and sights of the Okanagan Valley. And it was awesome! The drive was beautiful, we could take the dog with us, and there was no lining up at a border for 4 hours to pay $6 for a piece of green cardstock. Three nights in Penticton was the perfect introduction to the Okanagan, with just the right amount of sunshine, sand, patios, wine and cheese. I saw and did a lot of things, but also discovered a lot more things to see and do next time. It was also our first proper trip with Dave, so was just long enough to really see what having a puppy on vacation would really be like. I could write about this for hours, but luckily this trip has also revitalized my commitment to TripAdvisor and I’ve already gotten most of it out of my system in the rapidly increasing number of reviews I’ve written. This post will (hopefully) be a high-level, vaguely succinct overview of the trip.

The obligatory jump shot!

Munson Mountain – the obligatory jump shot!

The Drive

The 4.5 hour drive to Penticton was much more interesting than I thought it would be. Once we left the dreaded Highway 1 and joined the Coquihalla Highway the scenery started getting greener and more mountainous, and then suddenly we were in the desert. On the way there we stopped for lunch in Merritt, a small town right in the Nicola Valley. We Urbanspooned our way to Bramble’s Bakery & Cafe for lunch and enjoyed some delicious sandwiches and coffees at the only outdoor table – perfect for Dave! Merritt is the only main town between Hope and most places in the Interior, so it seemed to be full of people who were just passing through. We also ended up checking out a local dog show while we were there…very embarrassing turning up with an over-excited puppy who was practically walking us, not the other way round. He was definitely not headhunted for any medals. When we got to Kelowna and turned south down the west side of the Okanagan Lake, I felt like I was in California! Granted, the lake wasn’t as vast as the ocean, but it was pretty blue (as was the sky) and the road ran right along the edge of the water. On the way back we drove the same way, but stopped very early on in Summerland for a coffee at the beautiful Good Omens Coffee House. We sat in the bank garden under a cherry tree, soaking up the sun and really feeling like we were relaxing in someone’s garden! After that we pushed right through until Hope, where we had a late lunch at the Hope Drive Inn & Restaurant. It was very much a traditional diner, and one with a take-out window so we could eat outside with Dave. Being a diner, I had to order a chocolate milkshake to go…..delicious!

Driving south down the Okanagan Lake from Kelowna to Penticton

Driving south down the Okanagan Lake from Kelowna to Penticton

Sleepy Dave selfie!

Sleepy Dave selfie!

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