Starting on the AlCan

Montreal at dusk from the hill overlooking the city.

Montreal at dusk from the hill overlooking the city.

I was only a few days in the Seattle area when I had to fly to Montreal to deliver a paper and preside at another session at an AEJMC meeting which is for people who teach journalism. It’s a very large professional group and supposedly if you’re trying to break into this occupation, a presence at the AEJMC is required. I thought it rather clever that within a year of joining, I was presenting a paper (on the Facebook handlers of serpent handlers – no surprise there!) but also moderating a session about religion and pop culture. During my second day there, I was seated in the bar/snack area of the Sheraton (where the conference was) with my computer bag dangling on the back of my chair and my purse in front of me. I was talking with someone – about a job possibility in fact – and I felt the computer bag move. Weird, I thought. I felt the bag and it seemed a bit light. I looked – no computer. Surely it was hidden somewhere, I thought, jumping up and gazing inside. But to my horror, my $2,700 Apple laptop was gone.

The lovely interior of the Basilica of Notre Dame in old Montreal.

The lovely interior of the Basilica of Notre Dame in old Montreal.

Lord, what does one do at that point? I dashed toward the door of the hotel but what does one look for? A thief hardly stands there waving a silver laptop around. The person was surely outside of the hotel by the time I had jumped out of my chair. I dashed toward the front desk and they directed me to the security person who called the local police. Which was a good thing, because had I walked the 4 blocks to the police station, they would have ignored me but a call from the Sheraton security got an officer there quickly. I was out of my mind with worry, as my entire presentation for the next day was on that computer. Stupidly, I had not put a copy on a flash drive – was going to do that in the evening. And more stupidly, I had not backed up my computer to a hard drive in two weeks. Driving around the country, I’d been too tired and stressed and busy to get it done. And so many of the photos I took of our cross-country travels are lost forever.

A few hours later, the police officer dropped by a copy of his report at my hotel so I could have something to give the insurance company. Fortunately, they’d caught a good image of the guy on the hotel surveillance video although he’d put on a baseball cap before sidling up to me, seeing my computer bag was open and sliding his hand in, grabbing the laptop and throwing it into his own computer bag in one instant. Then he zoomed off just as my head turned and my hand felt the bag. (I learned this by deciphering the French in the report). Still, I had to trek over to the local Apple store (which fortunately was very close) to get the serial number of my computer from their records. All MacBook Pro laptops look alike, so the serial number is the only way I could prove it was mine. I was beyond depressed. Fortunately, my roommate had a Mac, so I was up late that night piecing together my speech (thank God my dad had printed out a copy before I left Seattle) and grabbing snake

Oma, Opa and Veeka

Oma, Opa and Veeka before we took off for Alaska

handler photos from emails that my friend John Morgan (who had photographed a bunch of them in May) had sent me. Am glad I never killed those emails. Sometimes it’s good to have 4,000+ emails in your files! My presentation went fine the next day and I’d include a photo but all the photos someone took of me made me look 101 years old with five double chins. That evening, to get my mind off my troubles, I jogged up the hill past McGill University and up the stairs to the “mont” that overlooks Montreal. An orchestra was playing Wagner and for a time, as downtown Montreal sank into the dusky twilight, I could lose myself in a performance of the “Liebstod” from “Tristan und Isolde.”

And the next day, I figured out the Montreal metro enough to get myself to the Notre Dame basilica in ‘vieux Montreal’ that I’d missed when we visited three years ago. The interior is known for its blue walls and ceilings and gold stars. There is a curious sculpture of an ascended Jesus crowning a kneeling Mary atop the reredos (behind the main altar). Have never seen anything like it before. It was a Friday afternoon, when the organist practices and fortunately he played Widor’s Toccata in F, a grand march, although he rushed through it, to my chagrin. Before long, I was on a plane back home and the next day I was at the Apple store in Bellevue, plunking down a whole lot more money I had not budgeted for. The mess with having to buy a new one and bring that computer up to speed delayed me a day, although it was nice spending the extra time with my parents and their two kitties,

My mom and the fluffier of one of their two cats, who has a habit of plunking herself atop of whatever piece of work my parents are working on at a given time.

My mom and the fluffier of one of their two cats, who has a habit of plunking herself atop of whatever piece of work my parents are working on at a given time.

who were not happy with the fact that my kitty was camped on my parents’ porch/balcony for almost 10 days. I was going to put Serenity up at a local PetSmart but one of the clerks decided at the last minute she didn’t like the look of my kitty – who she swore was going to bite her – and at the last minute I was told they wouldn’t lodge her. I was beyond furious, as it was 6:30 in the evening and I’d spent the entire day driving across Washington state and I was hot and tired. Fortunately my dad thought up the idea of the kitty camping out on their porch. The next day, I spent overseeing the moving of all my worldly possessions into storage nearby. Another event was that my niece Lindsay (with husband Jason) had their first child while we were there. Several other factors filled up my days and thus it was not until this past Tuesday (the 12th) that Veeka and I got on I-405 and headed north. With an adult, an elderly cat and a 9-year-old in the car, we’re not the fastest travelers as I’m the only driver and I get tired. Took us 3 hours to get across the border, then the drive east of Abbotsford to Hope was really lovely through several gorges. Then we headed north along the Fraser River, stopping at the Cariboo Lodge in Clinton. It was as good as the folks on Trip Advisor said (I really lean on those ratings).

On Wednesday, we headed further north along the Fraser tracing the route of gold prospectors who were there in the 1850s following the California Gold Rush. I didn’t know that British Columbia also had gold; thought that was limited to California and Alaska but apparently not. The most pleasant stop of the day was in Quesnel, a small town where we visited Pinnacles Provincial Park, a piece of

Seeing a 13-year-old rappel at Pinnacles Provincial Park, Veeka realizes that rock climbing could be cool.

Seeing a 13-year-old rappel at Pinnacles Provincial Park, Veeka realizes that rock climbing just might be cool.

woodland outside of town overlooking volcanic hoodoos. At this point, Veeka was in a bad mood and didn’t want to walk through the woods until – we came on some Dutch folks rappelling down the very steep slope. Being that a 13-year-old was jumping off the mountain – and only attached to ropes – for the first time, Veeka was beyond fascinated and was glued to the fence for at least an hour watching them. Need to get that girl started on a climbing wall, yes. Afterwards, we returned to Quesnel’s famous footbridge over the Fraser, the world’s longest wooden truss walking bridge. It was a delight walking across it in the late afternoon.

Getting to Prince George, which is the major city in central British Columbia, we stayed at the Carmel Lodge, then found a local swimming pool where Veeka and I had the best time splashing about. In fact, we’ve found local pools two nights in a row (near where we are staying tonight in Fort St. John too) where we’ve been able to enjoy a wave pool and hot tubs. As the hotel receptionist explained tonight, there’s not a whole lot else to do around here (especially in the winter) for kids, so many of the towns have really nice swimming centers. Earlier today we ended up in Dawson Creek, which is Point Zero for the Alaska-Canada Highway and where the museum had a really cool hour-long film explaining the amazing construction of this road during World War II. Even though we’ve had good weather this trip, the skies were hazy with smoke from forest fires to the west. So far, the drive has gone well, with side trips to Tim Horton shops, occasional gas fill-ups (it’s about $5.20/gallon here). Veeka and I are listening to a tape of “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban” to help the miles roll by.

journalism, TravelsPermalink

2 Responses to Starting on the AlCan

  1. John Morgan says:

    Serenity – I love that name.

    I can’t believe gas is $5.20 up there. Makes the $3.25 we’re paying here sound like a good deal.

    Yes, a climbing may be just what Veeka needs. With a net underneath 🙂

  2. ROBERT DUIN says:

    My oh my Julia… you have certainly had some challenges recently that would sink many a swimmer trying to make it to solid ground. Many blessings to you and Veeka and Happier Trails from here on out.