Author Archives: Julia Duin

Down the Cariboo trail

Melody, one of the 3 spherical hotel rooms at Free Spirit Spheres. A passage from Beethoven's 9th is on the exterior

Melody, one of the 3 spherical hotel rooms at Free Spirit Spheres. A passage from Beethoven’s 9th is on the exterior

Since I last wrote, one of my articles from my British Columbia trip got published in the Washington Post. It’s about an amazing tree house hotel (Free Spirit Spheres) we stayed in near Qualicum Beach. Veeka took a huge delight in the 9-foot-wide wood sphere that was our room for two days, as it was perched in the tree canopy and reached only by a spiral staircase wrapped around a tree.
The last few days of our trip were spent heading south from Prince George, the largest city in northern British Columbia. We headed for Barkerville, a historic town at 4,300 feet altitude in the mountains southwest of Prince George. This was a major city back in the days of the Cariboo Gold Rush, which sprang to life during the years of the American Civil War. Gold was discovered on the Fraser River in 1858 and 30,000 miners – once they heard of this – showed up in New Caledonia, which is what BC was known as at the time. People had to bring everything in on mules or on boats until a stagecoach road was built in 1865. The Cariboo Wagon Road began at Lillooet (in the mountains north of present-day Vancouver) and went some 300 miles to Quesnel.
Barkerville is a reconstituted town with a school house, church, stores and many other things – along with costumed actors who play the parts of historic characters from the era – that were built along a gold-laden Williams Creek. There were three bed and breakfasts in town and we stayed at the King B&B, a good choice in that there aren’t a whole lot of lodging choices in the area and Quesnel – the nearest large town – is 50 miles away. We met a lot of nice people there over the next two days, most of them from Vancouver or Toronto and a lot of them were ethnically Chinese. As I learned later,

An actress portraying a "Miss Florence Wilson" who arrived in western Canada via bride boat entertained us with a history of the town.

An actress portraying a “Miss Florence Wilson” who arrived in western Canada via bride boat entertained us with a history of the town.

Chinese immigrants played a large part in the mining around Barkerville. Our arrival was a bit rocky, as all of Barkerville, including the visitor center, shuts down at 6 pm and we arrived at 6:30. I eventually located our lodgings, then whisked Veeka off to Wells, a town three miles away where we found a place to eat. One other quirk about the area: there was no cell phone service on iPhones.
Barkerville was in a valley surrounded by pine trees. The town had all-dirt streets, very much like Dawson City. We repaired to the visitors center where we got a pamphlet and day’s schedule. We first opted for the general tour of the town, delivered by a “Miss Florence Wilson” who had come there on one of the “bride boats” in 1864. This very entertaining actress wore a blue and white dress with hoop skirt and a straw hat, a black belt with a large silver buckle and a silver locket and carrying a parasol.
At the time, Victoria was the major civilized outpost in western Canada. The
governor of British Columbia aka new Caledonia, James Douglas, was mixed race (Creole and Scottish) and he married a mixed-race woman who was part Cree. Knowing that, 300 black families moved from California to BC just before the Civil War because they were afraid that even though California was a “free” state, things could change. After the miners came hurdy gurdy girls, dentists, assayers, lawyers, blacksmiths and other professionals to jumpstart a civilization in the middle of the woods.

The main street in Barkerville

The main street in Barkerville

Veeka’s favorite stop was the schoolhouse, where all the females were forced to put on bonnets, examine each others’ hair for lice and address the teacher as “m’am” during a lesson set in 1874. If we so much as whispered to a neighbor, the teacher yelled at us. Then we walked up the hill to an archway made of logs and spruce boughs with “Chinatown” bannered atop it. The tour guide, an archeology prof from Simon Fraser U, explained the reason that mostly Chinese men emigrated was that many of the women had bound feet at the time, which meant they could not walk anywhere, much less hike about central British Columbia.
I never thought I’d be interested in the history of Chinese immigration to western Canada, but this was fascinating. It took two months to get a boat from Hong Kong to Victoria and the Chinese were kept in the hold the whole time. From New Westminster to Barkerville, it was a 3-week walk. Still, 5,000-8,000 Chinese lived there and they even built terraced gardens on a nearby hill to remind them of home. Every year, the town’s main street would flood, which would create a sea of mud but also wash away a year’s worth of garbage and horse dung.

Veeka trying her hand at an ink well and quill pen from 1894

Veeka trying her hand at an ink well and quill pen from 1896.

I tried to push off early the next morning, as I had 500 miles to go before reaching Seattle. We had reservations at a place in Pemberton, just north of Whistler, but it was a long drive to get even there.
Driving back to the main highway (97), we first stopped in Quesnel to walk across the pedestrian bridge we’d seen two years ago during our trip to Alaska. It’s a lovely 10-minute walk and a must-see if you drive through there. We also dropped by a bookstore to pick up a book on Gold Rush history, then headed south. The next major community, William Lake, was a lovely oasis and about five miles south was a restored 1896 schoolhouse. Children can practice dipping quill pens into inkwells there, which fascinated Veeka. When the school house was opened, it was state of the art, housing 40 students in new double desks, with a cloak room, a barrel stove and separate outhouses for the boys and girls.
I had to get to Lillooet, which was Mile 0 on the Cariboo Trail while it was still light so I could take photos. From the junction of Highways 97 and 99, it was about 70 minutes to Lillooet on one of the more terrifying highways I’ve been on. Yes, the views of the Fraser River a zillion feet below were amazing and the mountain ranges were dramatic, but the hairpin turns and steep drops were enough to keep my eyes glued to the road. Plus I nearly ran out of gas. At 6 pm, we pulled into Lillooet, which had a few stores and cafes but seemed run-down to me. A pyramid-shaped Mile 0 marker surrounded by bright colored zinnias and chrysanthemums was flanked by a rock shop and museum proclaiming: “1859 Mile 0 Cariboo Trail. Welcome to Lillooet: BC’s little nugget.”

Veeka at the Mile 0 marker in Lillooet

Veeka at the Mile 0 marker in Lillooet

It was another hour through the woods to Pemberton, where we stayed at the Pemberton Valley Lodge, which was the most reasonable accommodation I could find that included a pool for Veeka. There weren’t a ton of restaurants in town, so we found a take-out pizza place.
The next day was spent first driving 25 miles to Whistler, where there were so many tourists, one could hardly drive. One had to pay for parking everywhere plus the line at the visitor’s center was long. I got a map of the area, we dropped by a very plush IGA for picnic foods, then headed out to the far side of Alta Lake (took forever to find the turnoff for it) where we found a grassy beach at Rainbow Park and clear, clear water. Veeka later said it was the highlight of her trip and she couldn’t tear herself away from this lovely spot with a gorgeous mountain range staring at us from across the lake. I can see why people like to vacation here in the summer. It was hard to leave this lovely spot but I’d promised a friend we’d meet for dinner at the Hooked Fish Bar, which was in Surrey, near the border. So we drove down to Vancouver and got stuck for nearly 2 hours in deadly traffic. But the seaside restaurant was wonderful and it faced west toward the sunset. Eventually, we had to say good-bye and get back to Seattle. In all, I drove 2,244 miles.
Since then, Veeka has started fifth grade and we’ve been squeezing in after-school hikes and swims in local lakes before the weather goes south on us.

Veeka could not keep herself out of the clear mountain lake.

Veeka could not keep herself out of the clear (and cold) Alta Lake.

From Prince Rupert to Prince George

A waterfront view of Prince Rupert.

A waterfront view of Prince Rupert.

We were in Prince Rupert, a city on Canada’s far northwestern coast, that I’d always wanted to visit. Once there, it seemed like an overgrown fishing village. It helped that it was sunny outside, so we repaired to the visitor’s center by the waterfront first thing in the morning where there were lots of brochures and maps and an amazing exhibit on Prince Rupert’s virtues as a port city. Not only does it have a deep harbor, but it’s one of North America’s most secure ports and the only one with 100% dock radiation scanning. That is, it has four radiation portals scanning every container that moves through the port. Port security has become a big deal in an era where there’s great fears of terrorists sneaking in nuclear material to release “dirty bombs” in urban areas and one way to get them in is to ship it in via container, which is why there’s been a lot of news on how lax the security is at U.S. ports.
The art gallery next door had a zillion local and Native artworks that I would have loved to have snapped up but alas, all we bought was a Harry Potteresque wand for Veeka, who’s been wanting one now that we’re listening to Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix while we drove around western Canada. Thank God for audio books. In its print version, it’s 800 pages; in audio form, it’s 23 disks and it took us the entire 11 days to listen to it all. We’d listen to it when the scenery got boring, which wasn’t often.

The cannery in Port Edward, whose history was far more interesting than I'd guessed.

The North Pacific Cannery in Port Edward, whose history was far more interesting than I’d guessed.

The day’s highlight was the North Pacific Cannery, the oldest intact salmon cannery on the West Coast. There used to be hundreds of commercial salmon canneries from California to Alaska. This place has a bunch of buildings on stilts in the shallow waters of the Inverness Passage where all the old canning equipment and nets are still set up. The tour – with a live guide – is well worth the $12 adult admission, as you wander up and down steps and across walkways and boardwalks where people used to work around the clock during the summer months. The place started up in 1889 and ran for 83 years, capturing salmon who were heading up the Skeena River.
Our tour started with a very dated 1950s-era film showing cannery workers. It was kind of like watching an I Love Lucy skit but it did give you an idea of what life was like in this self-contained village.  Never thought I’d be interested in how fishing nets were made in exact measurements so as to slip over a salmon’s head, but not its whole body, thereby trapping it. We even got to see the machines that made the lead weights for the nets. There was a swing in the net building where my daughter could swing back and forth as the rest of us walked. Veeka loved the old washing and wringing machine in the general store that was even before my time plus a little house for the company cat that was outside a manager’s door.
Later, we trekked about the Butze Rapids viewpoint on the way back. That was a three-mile hike on gravel trail and boardwalk through rain forest, muskeg, beach and meadow where we saw Sitka spruce, salmon berries, fake azalea, Pacific silver fir, shore pine, yellow cedar and western red cedar and my favorite, Labrador tea. We completed it in two hours with lots of stops on the beach, where Veeka clambered about the many piles of driftwood. Another good choice and by this time, the clouds had cleared so we could see the surrounding peaks.

Veeka on a rope swing over the driftwood.

Veeka on a rope swing over the driftwood.

On Saturday, we set out east on Highway 16 for the 90-mile drive to Terrace, which is the largest city in these parts. The gray-aqua green water, the goldenrod, the billowy clouds – clearly the local colors are grey, green, yellow plus magenta for the fireweed. It’s a 30-mile drive along the inlet, all told, and the peaks get higher and the cliffs more sheer. They say it’s one of the loveliest drives in Canada and I’d agree with that. Many fishermen were perched along the road, as the salmon were running.
Terrace was at the junction of three highways and a fairly good-sized town where we located a funky coffee shop for lunch. The local tourist bureau had recommended it. Must say that in Canada, there’s these omnipresent signs with huge question marks on them which means there’s a nearby tourism office with loads of brochures and maps. There’s nothing quite like it in the United States but those were my lifeline during this trip and while driving the AlCan two years ago. They are everywhere and the government must pour money into them. Canada tourism’s web presence isn’t the best, so many times you have to literally be in the neighborhood to learn which sights to see.

Fortunately we didn't run into any of the 4-legged creatures on this path.

Fortunately we didn’t run into any of the 4-legged creatures on this path.

I’d been told to take a detour to the Nisga’a Lava Beds, which is the site of an enormous eruption sometime in the 1700s that buried some 2,000 people in the local Native tribe. So we headed north, the mountains getting steeper and lovelier and occasionally green lakes appearing. Only in Canada have I seen these lovely aquamarine lakes made of glacial silt. One had a hanging glacier. We could see off to our right the cone; the remains of the volcano that wrought so much destruction. We explored a few short trails to a waterfall and through the lava beds, but the edges of the rocks are quite jagged, so it’s not easy hiking.
We came across a visitors center in a long narrow building at the campground. Frustratingly, the visitors center is not staffed, as I have many questions and the exhibits are sparsely worded. The place had a round door about 5 feet tall. We visited some of the local Indian villages along the Nass Valley, I wishing that we could stay the night there as the scenery was spectacular. There were some lovely suspension bridges over the local rivers and I so wanted to drive out to the coast, to see Gingolx, which recently got a paved road to its village and the route is said to be one of the most breathtaking drives in the province. It is at the head of the Portland Inlet. There was another village near that, which had a museum of aboriginal art. But we had reservations elsewhere plus it was starting to rain, so I sadly drove back to Terrace, then east on Highway 16 another two hours to Smithers, pop. 5,000. We found a great Mexican restaurant near the train tracks, so the evening wasn’t quite a loss.

We loved the suspension bridge in the village of Gitlaxt’aamiks.

We loved the suspension bridge in the village of Gitlaxt’aamiks.

The next day was a Sunday and we learned that a lot of places close up on Sundays, even at the height of tourism seaso. It rained all day. A few miles past Smithers was Telkwa, a tiny town with a lovely red brick walk along the river with a gazebo and hanging flower baskets – perfect for a picnic had it been a lot warmer than the 60ºF on my car’s thermostat. We then drove another hour or so to Burns Lake. I’d picked up some literature at a tourism bureau about it being Canada’s “lake district” and it sure looked like England’s Lake District with lots of rolling hills and a zillion lakes where lots of folks were fishing. But it was raining the entire time and although we drove through the region a bit, the weather was enough to make us give up on seeing the area, a real loss, I thought.
Back on Highway 16 and nine miles to the east was Homeside Antiques, a truly delightful barn and several other buildings full of the coolest stuff, a lot of which I remember from the 1960s plus a very engaging owner and a very friendly dog and long-haired tortoiseshell kitty who was abandoned on their property. From Burns Lake, it was about 2 hours to the Fort St. James, a historical property that was to be our hotel. The nearest large city was Prince George, but we’d stayed there two years ago and I was less than thrilled with the place back then, so I’d searched the Internet for somewhere more interesting. I found this national park, founded by fur traders, on a lake northeast of Prince George that had several historical buildings on it and where they let you stay the night. You also get dinner and breakfast. I figured I’d never again get the chance to stay in a historic Canadian fur trading post, so reserved it.

We truly enjoyed the pancakes at Fort St. James B&B.

We truly enjoyed the pancakes at Fort St. James B&B.

We arrived there shortly after 5 and were served a wonderful dinner an hour later in a café overlooking a lake. I was amazed to see hummingbird feeders are outside the windows, as I didn’t know they made it this far north. One of the employees told me that winters aren’t as cold as they used to be. Instead of -60ºF, it’s -40, which I guess is an improvement. The lake doesn’t freeze as fast as it used to. Winters used to be colder and summers hotter; now it rains more during the summer and isn’t as hot.
Out on Lake Stuart, all was greys and Brigadoon-like mists. Back in the houseI  where we were staying, there were tons of antique clothing and furniture (ie large wooden cradles and what I think was a captain’s secretary desk) plus we had to think of things to do by flashlight, as we were pretending it was 1896 and supposed to be getting by without electricity. There was a deck of cards, but I haven’t played cards in years. There was a cribbage board, one of many I saw during our trip, but I hadn’t played that since I was a child. There was a checkers board (fortunately I remembered how to play THAT) and Crokinole – a game developed in rural Canada in the 1860s..
It was a stormy night outside and our quarters had no bathrooms, so we had to sprint across the lawn to the second floor of the nearby maintenance shop. I began to understand the reason for chamber pots.

The bed I stayed in.

The bed I stayed in.

The following day, it had stopped raining and the sun was out, yet it was quite cool, with a cold wind coming in from the lake. Breakfast was pancakes with sausage in the same lovely café. We begin to wander about the buildings and learn the history of the area and how the place was founded in 1806 by Simon Fraser and it became the capital of New Caledonia, which was what British Columbia was called for the next 70 or so years. When you travel around western Canada and Alaska, you learn how vital a part the Hudson Bay Company played in the development of this whole part of the world. All of western Canada was opened up by the fur trade and explorers used a system of lakes and rivers to get everywhere. I was told one could actually canoe from Stuart Lake all the way to Vancouver by portaging over to Babine Lake, then catching the Skeena River south from there. Simon Fraser did it by using the Fraser River, although it wasn’t called that when he went on it in 1808, traveling 520 miles to Vancouver and nearly getting killed more than once in the rapids. Lewis & Clark’s expedition had been from 1804-1806, so that was really quite the decade for exploring the western half of the continent.
We began wandering about the fort, stopping by a house filled with the kind of furs they trapped back then: Ermine, silver-tip fox, coyote, wolverine, lynx, otter, martin, mink, muskrat and otter, to name a few. The guide told use there are 2,800 trap lines in the area, bit there weren’t large animals in the area until 1914, when the railroad was put through from Alberta and the animals happily followed the rail lines west. I got this mental picture in my mind of bears migrating west along the railroad tracks. Veeka was given a rabbit pelt here that she had to take to a general store where she had to bargain with the storekeeper there for the kind of food they ate in the late 19th century. Employees were dressed in period costumes. The biggest fun was the daily chicken race that’s held each morning, so a crowd of us bet on which chicken would win. Ours lost both times. Outside was also huge “historic game box” with croquet, horse shoes, ropes for tug of war and a collection of sticks and be-ribboned hoops called the “game of graces;” a popular Victorian activity for girls in the 19th century, à la Jane Austen.

It was tough to capture all the grounds of Fort St. James in all one photo, but this captures the lake and the beauty of this isolated spot.

It was tough to capture Fort St. James all in one photo, but this captures Lake Stuart and the beauty of this isolated spot. The flag was what Canada used in 1896.

It was hard to tear ourselves away, but we had to get to Prince George (the main interior city in northern BC), then go to another historic village – this one a relic of Canada’s gold rush days – by nightfall, so off we went. I’ll finish describing our trip in the next blog.

Seeing Vancouver Island – and another funeral

Veeka (in the red jacket) the day I dropped her off at camp on a rainy afternoon. Her cabin mates and counselor are off to the left.

Veeka (in the red jacket) on the rainy afternoon when I dropped her off at camp. Her cabin mates and counselor are off to the left.

Several months ago, I arranged to do some travel pieces for publications interested in northern British Columbia. Ever since driving the AlCan two years ago (this month!), I’ve been fascinated with the region and wanted to go back, especially if I could get some payment for doing so. The first half of my trip involved spending four days driving up Vancouver Island, a place I hadn’t been to in many years and even then, it was mainly to Victoria on its southern end. Which is where many people go, but the publications I’d contacted wanted stuff more off the beaten path. Now Veeka had just come off a week spent at Girl Scout camp, so she was a bit done with camping, but I told her we’d be staying inside and sleeping in beds, so she was game to go traveling.
The first leg involved driving from Seattle to the Tsawwassen ferry southwest of Vancouver, a three-hour ordeal. It was two hours to the border, a 45-minute wait there and then a half hour to the ferry. If you make reservations, you have to be there a half hour before boarding time, even though we didn’t actually drive on until about 10 minutes before the ferry pushed off. Finally arriving at the island just south of Nanaimo, I checked Foursquare (an app) for a place to eat.

Yes, those are goats you see atop this restaurant in Coombs, BC.

Yes, those are goats you see atop this restaurant in Coombs, BC.

It led us to an Italian bistro in Coombs, a small town on 4A west, about 5 miles west of Parkesville, but the place was packed and not taking walk-ins, so we repaired Billy Gruff’s Creamery nearby. Together with some Black Forest bread with lox and lemonade, that was our dinner. Across the way was the Old Country Market, where we saw billy goats literally standing on the roof of the place, contentedly eating grass. That certainly caught our attention as we drove up. It was a warm, lovely evening, the first of a four-day string of fabulous weather, which is not a given when you’re in that part of the world.
The next day, we drove to Port Alberni, which is on an inlet off Vancouver Island’s west coast and dropped by Cathedral Grove, which was 800-year-old strand of Douglas firs surrounded by loads of tourists. Port Alberni is surrounded by peaks and we headed toward Harbor Quay. The day was sunny, breezy, mid-70s; in other words, heavenly. We got oysters and clam chowder and sat outside. There’s a bevy of picnic tables where you can snack from several eateries selling seafood, sit next to planters of purple, white and magenta petunias and listen to a fiddler’s band playing nearby.

Qualicum Beach

Veeka @ Qualicum Beach

We drove back to a beach in Parkesville on the eastern side of the island, where the salty sea water was clear, and quite warm. The beach was strewn with logs and lots of pebbles and some rocks, but it was just right for my daughter to swim and it didn’t get deep until way out. The shimmering water, the Alaska cruise ship in the distance, the blues of the mountains, the water and the sky, the boardwalk that took one to a point out in the water; it was perfect for what we needed. There was a play area and tiny water park behind us, where my daughter frolicked plus there were food carts to grab a bite while you were covered with sand and wearing a suit. Parkesville and Qualicum Beach just north of that are noted for its nice beaches.
The next morning, we drove to the northern end of the island, passing through Courtenay, Comox and Campbell River. None of the tourism brochures cover this area, a huge disservice to the folks who live in those parts and have businesses there. We detoured to a huge provincial area – Strathcona Provincial Park – to the west. We ended up at the Strathcona Park Lodge and Outdoor Education Centre, which overlooks the shimmering Buttle Lake that goes on for miles with snow-capped peaks of the Elk River Mountains – even in August – in the distance. This was such a lovely area with beautiful vistas to the west and south. I asked the person at the lodge check-in counter for some brochures and she told me to look online, which I thought was a bit cavalier. I can see why tourism is a bit lacking in these parts when some of the institutions in the area don’t work too hard at promotion! There’s a lot of hiking and camping available in the area, but you have to almost be a local to know what’s available.

The view from the lodge in Strathcona Provincial Park.

The view from the lodge in Strathcona Provincial Park.

North of Campbell River is some 120 miles of wilderness and then two small towns: Port McNeil and Port Hardy. Our B&B was 19 miles to the west in Port Alice, an old pulp mill town, supplied by logging camps on nearby inlets. The folks at the Inlet Haven B&B were beyond helpful, driving us to nearby sites, letting us do laundry and – when it was clear there were no nearby restaurants in that tiny town where we could get dinner – fixed us a wonderful hamburger meal on their deck while the sun set over the mountains. At one point, 1,500 people lived there with about 500 employed by the mill. It finally closed in 2004, later re-opened, then shut down again in February 2015, which was unfortunately in that the mill provided 75 percent of the town’s tax base and half of its jobs.  One of the casualties was Port Alice’s one restaurant.
The area gets similar mild weather to its more famous neighbor, Victoria, to the south. It used to get copious amounts of rain, I was told, but not so this year; in fact, there was so little rain that the day we arrived, all open fires, even those on a beach, were banned.

Telegraph Cove in far northern Vancouver Island.

Telegraph Cove in far northern Vancouver Island.

We spent two nights in Port Alice, using part of our free day to see Telegraph Cove, on the eastern side of the island, which was packed with sightseers who were on whale watching expeditions or fishing boats. The cove is an antique sawmilling village with buildings dating back to the 1920s and 1930s. We wandered about the Wastell House, an airy place with a sun room overlooking the harbor. The place is surrounded by forest and that day, clear sunlight poured down. However, the place is a tourist trap; we had to pay $1/hour to park in a crowded dirt lot in a resort in the middle of nowhere. I was told the fees went for the upkeep of the access road to the resort. Our host told us that when he bought a fishing license there, they charged him $5 to merely print it out.
The next morning, we left Port Alice at 4:30 a.m. for the 45-minute drive to the ferry in Port Hardy. Boarding it was a disorganized mess. We got there just before 5:30, which I was told was the absolute hour one had to be there. The walk-on passengers were told the same thing. Drivers all sat, idling, in line for an hour. Starting around 6:30, we began inching forward. A lot of late-arriving cars were allowed in ahead of us, so it was quite arbitrary whether you were there early or not. When I asked the

The view from the balcony at Inlet Haven B&B.

The view from the balcony at Inlet Haven B&B.

reasons for the delay, I was told many of the people driving the campers had put given the wrong vehicle lengths on their reservations (one has to specify rough measurements), meaning they had to recalibrate how much room they had on the ferry. I was also told even children needed individual IDs. Being foreigners, we had passports, but what if we hadn’t? I explained U.S. kids don’t have separate IDs, which got me a stare from the ferry folks. Not only did they slowly check us in at the first gate, they re-checked us a few hundred feet later as we boarded, as if extra people had snuck into the car. The attendant explained the parking lot was unsecured, although the fencing looked pretty good to me. Maybe they figured terrorists had somehow gotten up at 5 a.m. to burrow underneath. We boarded around 6:55 and the ferry left around 7:40. Most inefficient operation ever.

The view from the Port Hardy-Prince Rupert ferry.

The view from the Port Hardy-Prince Rupert ferry.

Once on, it wasn’t a bad 16-hour trip. A public address system occasionally alerted passengers to bear and whale sightings plus historic tidbits about which early Canadian explorer named which cove we were passing by. The salmon were clearly running and we could see them soar out of the water in quick half-circles. The weather was clear and sunny – not a given in the Pacific Northwest by far – and the boat hosted a BBQ for lunch which was a pleasant break from the cafeteria. Many of us took refuge on the glassed-in sundeck on the 6th floor to gaze at hundreds of miles of forested mountains, occasional lighthouses, canneries, waterfalls and scattered settlements. We met the most pleasant family from London: Gordon and Stephanie and their 5-year-old daughter, Flo, who spent much of the day playing with my daughter.
We weren’t released from the boat until close to midnight and then I drove about Prince Rupert, which seems to fog over at night, searching for the Black Rooster, our hostel. I could barely read the street signs and either the lights were dim or the fog was heavy, but it was very hard to find my way about town. Even the next day, sans fog, I noticed a lot of the streets lack signs. As for the next leg of our journey, that comes in the next blog!

Julie Kay (left) and me in the early days after I'd gotten Veeka. We are standing at Great Falls in Virginia.

Julie Kay (left) and me in the early days after I’d gotten Veeka. We are standing at Great Falls in Virginia.

One thing I did want to add is that earlier in August, a dear friend, Julie Kay, died of ovarian cancer at the age of 54. I was with Veeka in Quebec when a mutual friend called to say she was dying and if I wanted to see her, I had to fly to Florida right then. Of course that was impossible for me, so I called around to other friends, who told me that Julie had been so secretive about her illness, very few people knew that she’d battled this thing for 10 years. She certainly had not told me she was dying, although our last conversation – where she called to express sympathy on the death of my dad – was very odd and now as I think of it, she was surely thinking of her own impending death. Yet, she said nothing to me of it and I am of course kicking myself that I didn’t question her further at the time. Julie was one of those friends I knew from my Florida days. I’ve moved around so much in my life, most people I’ve known have ceased communicating with me. But Julie was amazing in that she pursued and kept long-time friends. She visited me in Maryland; I visited her in Florida and we shared trips together to Key West and Oaxaca, Mexico. Again, it’s the same lesson that man – and woman – knows not their time and when they may be called.

A wedding in Montreal

Mount Rainier from the north. The Sunrise visitor center is below

Mount Rainier from Sourdough Ridge to the north. The Sunrise visitor center is below.

Summer is passing all too quickly and last week, Veeka and I ran off to a place on Mt. Rainier called Sunrise. The walk along a ridge near the visitor center was outstanding, as one is looking directly at this huge mountain right THERE. I’m cramming in trips to this mountain this summer, as the national parks system was handing out free year-long parks passes last year to all fourth graders, so we snapped one up. It runs out at the end of August, though. It was such a clear, beautiful day and the only downside were lots of bugs.
Early the next morning, we got on a plane for Montreal to attend the wedding of Laurie Vuoto, a longtime friend. We also sampled the delights of getting stranded due to United cancelling our flight. About Laurie: she moved to Arizona four years for a new job and also hoping she’d meet The One and last Saturday, she and Richard Horton made it official. It was a pull-out-the-stops affair. The ceremony was at Montreal’s oldest Catholic church right on the St. Lawrence River (convenient for the early fur traders). As Laurie pulled up in her limo, the bells started to ring – a lovely custom – and her brother-in-law told me she started to weep at that point with sheer happiness and with the

Laurie descending the staircase from her home to the limo that's taking her to the wedding.

Laurie descending the staircase from her home to the limo that’s taking her to the wedding.

realization that her dreams were finally coming true. Veeka and I were seated in the second row and while watching the ceremony, got called in to help amuse a very restless flower girl in the first pew. Then another inviteé pulled out an IPad and said flower girl was instantly captivated.
I was introduced to a nice custom with Italian weddings (the bride was the daughter of Italian immigrants and half the folks at the reception were speaking Italian) where there’s a 4-hour break in the action between the ceremony and the reception. That allows the bride and groom to take photos and the guests to take an afternoon snooze before a long evening party. We appreciated the break as well, although finding the venue for the reception on Ile Bîzard (Montreal is built on a series of islands) was quite difficult because of all the summertime road repairs. It was one of those sit-down dinners with party favors shaped like Cinderella’s carriage and six or seven courses, followed by an open bar and a huge desert table that was wheeled out around 11 pm. By then, I could not shove down one more morsel. There was a lot of dancing, a band, a guest opera singer and slide shows showing highlights from the couple’s courtship.
It was a lovely affair, considering the mess we had getting there. Our connecting flight from Seattle to DC was OK until the storms hit on the afternoon of the 28th. We were one of the last planes allowed to touch down before the torrents let loose. Planes after us were told to circle around or return to their origin, as it was impossible to land for the next 1-2 hours. That, unfortunately, affected the plane that was to be our connector to Montreal. It was leaving somewhere in North Carolina and it tried twice to land, could not, so returned back home. Which left us without a plane and thus our flight was cancelled.

The new Mr. and Mrs. Richard Horton at the reception

The new Mr. and Mrs. Richard Horton at the reception on Ile Bizard

We didn’t know it was cancelled until mid-evening. Veeka and I had packed lightly, so we had our suitcases with us. We had taken refuge in a United Club, as my credit card gives me 2 free tickets a year. We had just arrived when Veeka remembered she’d forgotten her IPad on the plane from Seattle, so the Club folks called over to the gate to track it down. Our plane had left the gate but a kind person had found and left the IPad at the gate podium, so we got it back. Those clubs are wonderful: Free wine, food, copies of decent newspapers, a bevy of travel agents plus one can just leave one’s stuff sitting there and no one will take it. The Houston club was a real lifesaver when V and I had a 7-hour layover on our way back from Minnesota last year.
Anyway, when we returned to our gate for the delayed Montreal flight, the United employee there was totally clueless and didn’t know the flight was cancelled until passengers confronted her with texts they were getting from Expedia saying it was no more. The lines in front of the customer service desk (to re-book) were quite long, so we returned to the Club where the agents there found us a way there Friday morning. However, we had to leave out of National and take connecting flights through Newark and Quebec City. There were lots of miserable people in line with us trying to get to Montreal, so we were lucky to get that. United put us up for the night at a Hyatt for a reduced rate (if you can call $105 reduced). I thought of calling (my brother) Rob and Jan, but it was really pouring plus Dulles is quite far from where they live in Maryland. Plus, we had an early flight the next day, or so I thought. So we just took a shuttle to the Hyatt 30 miles away in Crystal City, which was quite lovely.

Veeka, dressed in her finest black lace dress, the flower girl and other kiddos after the wedding.

Veeka, dressed in her finest black lace dress, the flower girl and other kiddos.

We had just gotten to our room and I had opened my email when I got a note from United saying the first leg of my flight out of National was cancelled. I nearly hit the ceiling, so got back on the phone. The first agent I got on the line (after 30 minutes of waiting) got disconnected from me. Called again and waited another 30-40 minutes. The new agent then told me a new flight had magically appeared and it left from Dulles at 9:45 a.m. – direct to Montreal. So we got back to Dulles at the crack of dawn, got the flight and everything (the rental car, our hotel) went well. But it reminded me to NOT fly through Washington, DC on a summer afternoon, as thunderstorms are nearly daily there and airports get shut down a lot.
We spent the day after the wedding wandering around Carrefour Laval, a large mall north of Montreal and got enamored with Second Cup, Canada’s answer to Starbucks. Then, to Veeka’s delight, we spent several hours with Laurie’s family, as Laurie’s sister and brother-in-law are the godparents to my daughter. The Vuoto family has a house in the Montreal area that the Vuoto sisters have access to and Veeka got to spend the afternoon next to their pool. Then we headed to Quebec City for the night, as I had visited there when I was 8 and I wanted Veeka to see it. It was a 3-hour drive.

Veeka in Quebec's lower city. Notice the Chateau Frontenac on the hill behind her.

Veeka in Quebec’s lower city. Notice the Chateau Frontenac on the hill.

On Monday morning, our hotel shuttle deposited us next to the Chateau Frontenac, the iconic landmark that dominates Quebec’s Old City. We then took the funicular to the lower city, rode back up, wandered about the terrace in front of the chateau, then walked along the Promenade des Gouverneurs, traipsed about the Plains of Abraham and saw two museums. So we are very much up on the French-British conflicts of 1759-60, the stories of Generals Wolfe and Montcalm and how the British scaled the cliffs to defeat the French. I was constantly pointing out to Veeka the cliffs that the invaders had to climb up, as they are massive. I didn’t realize that France was given a choice as to either give up Canada or the French Indies to the UK and they chose to give up Canada. That rates as one of the stupider real estate deals in history comparable to Russia selling off Alaska.
For lunch, we found a cute little place, L’Omelette on 66 Rue St. Louis, where the help gave us a lovely table by the window where we could see everything happening on the street. It’s just what we needed after walking on cobblestones all morning. It was killer hot that day, so we came back to hotel and jumped in the hotel pool. (Pools are essentially a non-negotiable in Veeka’s mind.) Later that day, we took Boulevard Champlain, which takes one along the Quebec waterfront; a very pretty route that I’d never seen before. We stopped by the Montmorecy falls (lit in bright colors at night), then drove to the Ile d’Orleans, about 10 miles north of Quebec. We went to La Goéliche, a restaurant overlooking the St. Lawrence River on the southern tip of the island. It was quite pretty seeing the night lights of Quebec across the river. So wished we had an extra day to see the Île, as it looked quite lovely. Am not sure when, if ever, I’ll be back there. This was my 4th visit, but at least Veeka got to see the place. Tuesday was taken up with driving back to Montreal (note: if you have a rental car, do not count on finding gas stations close to the Pierre Trudeau airport at which you can fill up your gas tank), then flying interminably back to Vancouver, then Seattle. At least I got to watch the movie “The Martian,” which I liked a lot!

My little one on the Promenade des Gouverneurs, a fantastic walk overlooking the Quebec waterfront.

My little one on the Promenade des Gouverneurs, a fantastic walk overlooking the Quebec waterfront and the St. Lawrence River.

Farewell to the admiral

Veeka and I in front of St. Mark's Cathedral

Veeka and I squinting in the sun in front of St. Mark’s Cathedral in Seattle.

I think one of the loveliest moments during my dad’s funeral last Sunday was listening to the organ play “Nimrod” from Edward Elgar’s Enigma Variations. If you have never listened to it, do so by clicking on the link. It’s lovely and poignant.
We were fortunate in that although the day started out with rain, the sun was coming out as we approached the church. And during the reception, it was warm enough to leave the doors open.
The family had a brief Communion service just before the funeral, then all of us processed into the nave at St. Mark’s Cathedral. Coast Guard Admiral Mark Butt, who had just moved to Seattle three weeks before, showed up at my mother’s side to walk her down the aisle. I was so grateful for that. My mom had been married 65 years and she’s used to having my dad walk with her. I processed with Veeka, who was delighted with her sleeveless black dress and new high heels.
IMG_2111The funeral program came with two photos: One of my dad in full dress uniform and one of him relaxing during a vacation in Israel. He was sitting in a hotel garden in Jerusalem when a stray kitty wandered by and jumped into his lap and took a snooze. My dad loves cats and that photo was so him.
My brothers and I read from Scriptures that my father had selected years ago that he would like read when the time came. We sang his favorite hymns, including “A Mighty Fortress is Our God” and of course “Eternal Father, Strong to Save.” Then after prayers and a short sermon given by the dean of the cathedral, a bugler played “Taps,” during which two US Coast Guard men in uniform unfurled a flag and held it up for all to see. Then Admiral Butt presented it to my mother.

Admiral Butt presenting the flag to my mom and thanking her for my dad's many years of military service.

Admiral Butt presenting the flag to my mom and thanking her for my dad’s many years of military service.

Adding to the drama was a congregant seated in the front row across the aisle from us who fainted at that point. As people rushed to his side, they could not find a pulse for a brief moment, but fortunately he eventually revived, right in time for the 911 medics who came dashing in. Never a dull moment.
Afterwards, the reception table was laden with a huge spread, including the wine and cheese that my dad insisted we have, because going to heaven is a celebration, right?
I am so grateful to some of my friends who showed up; a couple from Church of the Redeemer who lives just east of me and some friends who made the three-hour drive from Portland, which is true commitment! Three of my dad’s nieces flew in: One from California and two from Minnesota. There’s not much you can say during these times, but presence means everything. And for the 137+ who sent me messages on Facebook along with a few who sent personal notes, thank you as well. I’ve learned that when death happens, it’s important to say *something” even if it’s only a few words and nothing profound. Believe me, those grieving notice every kindness.
And so we adjust to the new normal, as my mother is now living alone, although her friends at the retirement home promise me they will keep her busy. And I live only 14 miles away; Steve is three hours away and Rob is moving back to the area in the fall. With us, there is little other news. A journalism/PR position came open at the last minute at university just south of me, but I lost out to someone with a PhD. In that I’d just gotten another MA to ward off such a possibility, it wasn’t enough.

In memory of my father

“Why is there death, Mommy?”

The memorial to my dad set up at the retirement place where my parents live

The memorial to my dad set up at the retirement place in Redmond where my parents live.

That’s the sort of questions Veeka has been asking me ever since my father – and her grandfather – died a week ago on June 24 at the age of 91. Mercifully, she’d been at camp all day but when I picked her up late that afternoon, she knew something was wrong right away. Much earlier that day, the nurses in the unit where my dad was staying woke my mom up to say he seemed much worse. She went downstairs to the unit and held vigil for a few hours, then returned to her apartment for a quick nap. Then my brother Steve arrived from Portland. He’d left at the crack of dawn to get there and he found a kind employee called Ron Cole who, not wanting my dad to be alone while my mother slept, had been sitting by my father’s side. Steve wrote about this encounter in the Oregonian this week.
Then my mother returned to the room. Also arriving was Jim Eichner, an Episcopal priest I knew from a nearby parish and someone who dropped by my parents’ retirement center to offer Communion every fourth Friday. Several days before, I’d asked him to drop by my dad’s bedside before going to the monthly service. So he showed up just after 10 a.m. at about the same time my brother and mom walked in. At this point, my dad was breathing quite laboriously and Jim quickly surmised that he didn’t need Communion; he needed Last Rites. He quickly prayed this over my dad, ending with the Lord’s Prayer. I think he left the bedside at this point and texted me, saying I’d better drive over as quickly as possible.
I’d just gotten out of the shower, so I texted Steve to ask how Dad was doing and to say I was on my way. He and my mom both noticed that after the Lord’s Prayer, my dad had visibly relaxed, as if the prayers had released him in some way. Or maybe he knew he could let go. His breathing slowed and then stopped. They called in a nurse, who listened for a heartbeat. There was none. It was just before 10:30 a.m. Steve called me to say not to hurry too much, as my father was already gone.

Veeka poses with her two counselors at the camp she was at last week. It was a few minutes after I took this picture that she noticed something wasn't quite right with me. It was then that I told her that Opa had died.

Veeka poses with her two counselors at the camp she was at last week. It was a few minutes after I took this photo that she noticed something wasn’t quite right with me. It was then that I told her that Opa had died.

I got there about a half hour later and the three of us held vigil by his body until the funeral home got there two hours later. We were dazed, not believing that he had left us so quickly. It had been such a grace that the priest had arrived at just the right time to say the prayers that helped my dad depart and that Steve had left Portland 180 miles away at just the right time he needed to reach my father’s side so my mother would not be alone.
I insisted about an hour later that we call my parents’ church so they could be looking for a date for his funeral. It will be July 10; a military funeral at the Episcopal cathedral where my parents attended for so many years. Two days after his death, the Compline choir at St. Mark’s kindly included my dad’s name in their prayers for the newly deceased. You can listen to it here at about moment 21. And many folks have been reading the column that Steve wrote last summer about my father’s last trip to his birthplace in New Ulm, Minn., and his farewell to his older sister. She died last December and now he’s followed her just over six months later.
Just a week before on a Friday, my father had been sitting in his apartment, there to see his beloved kitties. We didn’t realize it would be his last visit there. The following Sunday, Veeka and I went raspberry picking and showed up in his room with a flat of fresh berries. He ate one but at that point, he was hardly getting down any food. That was the last day I saw him alive. And so we’ve planned a service that has the hymns he wanted and a reception (wine and cheese!) he would appreciate.
At the same time, we go shopping today for the appropriate black shoes and clothing for a funeral. As I’ve thought and mourned, this Benedictus by Karl Jenkins has expressed the emptiness I feel. And so does the arrangement of “In the Mansions of the Lord” from the movie “We Were Soldiers.” I selected the version played at President Reagan’s funeral, which I thought was heart-breakingly beautiful, expecially the instrumental part when the crucifer team heads down from the main altar. When people die, you know they are happier and pain-free now. We mourn for ourselves, the dreadful loneliness that we feel when someone we’ve known since birth is gone. The older you get, the harder it is to form new relationships and the more you lean into the ones you’ve had when you were young. For instance, we’ve been back in the Seattle area almost a year now and I’ve made no friends. Oh, there are people who’ve helped us in various ways, but there’s been no new friends. Most of mine are in Portland or back in Washington DC.

St. Mark's Cathedral on Capitol Hill overlooking Seattle.

St. Mark’s Cathedral on Capitol Hill overlooking Seattle.

And so family is all we have here. And it’s been so wonderful to be part of peoples’ birthdays and holidays and to no longer have to wait for strangers to invite us in.
Fortunately, three of my high school friends are in the area. All of us are turning 60 this year. If I live as long as my dad did, my life is only two-thirds done. The way ahead sure feels lonelier. At least I live close to my mother; Steve is still a three-or-four-hour drive away and my other brother Rob is moving back to Washington state in the fall, although he’ll be several counties away. I am so grateful that this year is not last June, when I was still in Fairbanks. I would have gone crazy knowing my dad was dying and not being able to be there and do things like get the paperwork filled out for the crematorium and just be there. I am glad we are back home at a place where I can see the mountains when I am driving down the freeway.
I keep on telling Veeka that our true home is elsewhere and that if at times we feel homesick, it’s a natural feeling that shows us we’re meant for heaven. C.S. Lewis wrote about this inconsolable longing in Mere Christianity:

“If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. If none of my earthly pleasures satisfy it, that does not prove that the universe is a fraud. Probably earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, but only to arouse it, to suggest the real thing. If that is so, I must take care, on the one hand, never to despise, or be unthankful for, these earthly blessings, and on the other, never to mistake them for the something else of which they are only a kind of copy, or echo, or mirage. I must keep alive in myself the desire for my true country, which I shall not find till after death; I must never let it get snowed under or turned aside; I must make it the main object of life to press on to that other country and to help others do the same.”

May showers and birthdays

My yummy chocolate cake

My yummy chocolate cake

We’re finally into May and since I last wrote, there’s been several birthdays. This past Thursday, I had a birthday, a rather significant one, but one that made me feel quite old! When I turned 50, I was months away from adopting Veeka, still employed at the newspaper and at the top of my game. I traveled to Jamaica and India that year and skiied at Breckenridge for a week. Those days are over and things are tougher now. But it is wonderful to be close to family, as this birthday was the first one in 34 years that I’ve had at home in Seattle. I think there were 13 of us assorted brothers, sisters, grandchildren and grandparents, so we simply dined in one of the rooms at the retirement place where my parents live and my mother bought me a cake from QFC because they’re so moist.
Unfortunately, the rules at the center forbid lighting candles inside, so I had none to blow out, which is just as well. Of course it was rainy outside. For awhile, it had been sunny and quite lovely here (finally) after a record-setting rainy winter. One of my snow tires wore out, so I ended up gifting the rest to the local Firestone. In early May, there was a Northwest Paddling Festival at Lake Sammamish

Veeka trying out a toddler boat in the kiddie pool at the paddling festival. To her chagrin, she could not keep it.

Veeka trying out a toddler boat in the kiddie pool at the paddling festival. To her chagrin, she could not keep it.

state park, not far from where we live. So when Veeka arrived home from school, I told her to forget the homework, put on a bathing suite and off we went. We got to kayak twice and wander about these wonderful boating and camping booths. Would love to start camping but I have nowhere to store equipment. I did get to paddleboard on the lake and it was magnificent. On the first try, I felt into the lake, but on the second, I was happily zooming about on the board. Would love to do more of that.
My WaPo piece on the Dalton Highway got lots of hits (I am told) and was picked up by the Denver Post and Alaska Dispatch (in Anchorage), among other places. About two weeks later, another piece of mine came out on the Religion News Service about the #westcoastrumble, which I’ve talked about previously. I talked with two experts on a movement that this revival is related to known as the New Apostolic Reformation. Some of its leaders claim they know nothing of it nor are a part of it, but it’s a loose network of evangelists, revivalists and “apostles” who visit each other’s churches and share teachings and personnel. For instance, the Seattle Revival Center, which was at the center of my piece, is in frequent contact with folks from Bethel Church in Redding, Calif., which is at the epicenter of this movement. Christianity Today’s April 24 cover story talks a lot about Bethel. There are some professors at Biola University outside of Los Angeles that are following this movement. This is what one of them said (and which got cut from the RNS piece because of length):

Brad Christerson, a sociology professor at Biola University in La Mirada, Calif., and a fellow with the University of Southern California’s Center for Religion and Civic Culture, is coming out with a book on the new Pentecostal networks that Goll, Nelson, Martin and Shamp belong to. He noted that very few of these revivalists are answerable to a denomination.
“What’s unique about this group is their network structure, which is much more suited to growth in the global religious marketplace,” he said. “It is flexible and you can do experimental things you can’t do with a church that has a board and a doctrinal statement. They are independent agents but they are networked together and share each others’ resources and followings.”
Many of the 30-something revivalists are networked with Bethel Church in Redding, Calif., pastored by Bill Johnson, a key leader in this movement. Bethel left the Assemblies of God in 2006.
“Bill Johnson told me he travels 250 days a year,” Christerson added. “These guys are going all over the world. These guys have god-like status among their followers. I don’t have the sense there’s abuse going on but the amount of influence they have is frightening.” 

Veeka blowing out candles at her birthday brunch.

Veeka blowing out candles at her birthday brunch.

The folks at Seattle Revival Center (which parted ways with the Assemblies of God in 2015) were pretty happy with my piece and the meetings are continuing there in their 12th week. The last time Veeka and I went, there were 65 folks there; not huge numbers. As I’ve watched the services online, I have noticed how the church is not at all full, which one could interpret several ways. I have heard of some good and maybe miraculous things happening there, but spectacular healings are not one of those things. As the pastor says, “We’ll show up as long as God shows up,” so it’s a matter of figuring out how much God is truly showing up. It must be costing a mint to fly in these evangelists plus hire local worship bands, so if the crowds are thinning out, folks must be wondering where this is going.
Other events: Veeka turned 11 in April, so some of the family kindly showed up at a brunch I held for her. Then we spent the afternoon seeing the Pacific Northwest Ballet perform “Coppelia,” which was a gift from Oma and Opa. The month since then has been lots of ups and downs. For a time, I thought I was going to get a well-paying contract to help someone write a book. I did some preliminary work on it, only to have this person get cold feet and walk off the project. But Veeka finished a year with Awana in May and has a T-shirt and lots of Bible verses to show for it.

Sol Duc Hot Springs

Sol Duc Hot Springs

I’ve gotten two assignments from local magazines and three more travel assignments from the Washington Post, so my freelancing has picked up. Then a week ago, my mother had a birthday, so we showed up on a rainy Sunday evening with a lemon cake and dinner, as my dad was feeling poorly and my mother didn’t feel like cooking. Oh, and a coupon for a massage, as I’ve been trying to talk my mom into patronizing a very nice salon in downtown Redmond. This was a few hours after Veeka and I arrived home from a weekend Girl Scout camp on Vashon Island. The locale was nice but the weather stunk. Another bright light was the few days we spent over spring break with friends in Port Ludlow, across Puget Sound from Seattle. It was a nice break just to get away and they drove us to places like Neah Bay and Sol Duc Hot Springs in the Olympic National Park. We also drove down the Dungeness Spit in Port Angeles and spent a (rainy, of course) today puttering about Port Townsend.

Oma celebrating her birthday. We had to light her candles on the balcony, as the place where she lives doesn't allow lit candles indoors.

Oma celebrating her birthday. We had to light her candles on the balcony, as the place where she lives doesn’t allow lit candles indoors.

Jobhunting continues apace but for the most part, things are quite discouraging. I went to a local job fair last week and realized I could be an emergency substitute and that the hours might work for me along with my freelance projects. So, we will see. I’m also putting together a creative writing class for fifth graders that I’d like to shop around the district. It’s based on a similar class for talented writers that I had in fifth grade and which really got me started on a writing career. So I’ve been volunteering at a nearby elementary school, working with nine fifth-graders each week to see what lessons work and which ones do not, as fifth graders have changed a lot since I was 10 years old. The teacher tells me they really enjoy it and he is glad to recommend me to other teachers. In a few weeks, I’ll have an author day at the school where I’ll be doing a reading and hawking my children’s book, so am hoping for good things. I am grateful this particular elementary school is letting me try out my ideas with their students this spring.

Age discrimination is simply everywhere.

Me running away from it all by skiing at Stevens Pass.

Me running away from it all by skiing at Stevens Pass.

See this picture of me skiing? That’s what I do when I can’t handle the age discrimination in the job market. After eight months of applying to everything from Amazon to Alaska Airlines’ magazine, I’m amazed when my resume and cover gets no responses. OK, we’ve got two master’s degrees here, a distinguished job record and joy of joys: This weekend the Washington Post is publishing my travel article on the Dalton Highway in Alaska’s far north. You’d think articles like that would at least get me a call back. I’ve won awards for my writing all over the country but the past eight months has been a frustrating desert.
People ask me: Why aren’t you a technical writer? Well…here’s what Google expects of its tech writer applicants for jobs in their spiffy low-slung white-walled office building in Kirkland:

• Learn complex technical information and write technical documentation for Google engineers, such as architectural overviews, tutorials for software developers, API programming guides, and more.
• Respond to technical questions from Google engineers about the subject matter that you documented.
• Edit documents written by others; coach engineers to improve their writing skills.
• Develop tools and processes to automate document creation and maintenance.
• Read and write code in C++, Java, JavaScript or Python.

Sorry, folks, I don’t do Python. Even non-techie places like the real estate company Zillow has openings with these names: Data scientist, quantitative analyst, graphics engineer, senior IOS engineer. I’d need a third MA for that. Jobs that end with the disclaimer “college degree required” are not aimed at anyone over 25. A lot of companies want advertising or design agency experience, which I don’t have. I loved getting this second MA, but it is not helping me get hired. So I run away and drag Veeka on mountain hikes like Little Si, whose summit is shown below.

At the top of Little Si in North Bend. This charming hike in the Cascades was crowded due to the long-awaited sun. Veeka is in the foreground.

At the top of Little Si in North Bend. This charming hike in the Cascades was crowded due to the long-awaited sun. Veeka is in the foreground.

There was a fascinating Seattle Times article about how local industry is scrambling for talented help. Then I read the comments section where folks over 50 were saying no one’s looking for them. One person wrote:
“On the one hand, a company doesn’t want to spend time/money on giving a older worker any “on the job training.” And on the other hand a company will hire a new graduate with no real world working experience – and spend $$ more on extra perks and creating a youth culture environment. That student usually is ill-prepared to hit-the-ground-running at a new job. They may as well help train the older worker, it’s probably less expensive.”
Then someone with 30 years in Systems Engineering and Systems Management in the IT field said he couldn’t find work because companies are hiring college grads and H-1B visa foreign workers.
Person after person (in this same comments section) talked about the willing and desperate older workers who’d take jobs in a second. For example, one wrote, Microsoft is willing to train young veterans with minimal tech experience by giving them classes in the basics, then putting them to work in entry-level jobs. Why not tap the “older worker” in the same manner? Many already have much tech experience and only need a refresher class to bring them up to date, and a chance to work.
Another said, Yep, I agree with you but don’t expect anything to change. I’m in my 60’s, EE, mgmt experience, web design, C, C++, HTML/CSS/js, sql, php and electronics design experience but nobody will even call or email back if I put my history on the resume. (The reason why, he added, as that older people don’t want to work 100-hour weeks, they want decent pay and they tend to get sick more).
Another said: You would do very well getting high-paying temporary assignments. You can make a living that way if you have skills that are in demand–I do, and I’m not even in tech. If they don’t have to pay you benefits, employers don’t care how old you are.

At least someone in our family is making money. Last day for Girl Scout cookies

At least someone in our family is making money. Last day for Girl Scout cookies

And even if you do get hired, if you’re female, you’ll still get paid less, according to this  New York Times piece.

Surely, folks tell me, you could get hired by Amazon? They’re scooping up as many humans as possible to move to Seattle. Well, here is what they are looking for in a tech writer:
• Degree in English, Technical Writing, Computer Science or related field highly desirable
• Experience with cloud/Web Services, IaaS, PaaS, or related areas is a plus
• Previous experience working with agile project management methodologies is a plus
• Programming skills in at least one programming language, such as Java, JavaScript, Python, Ruby, PHP, or .NET (C#) is a plus
• Experience with GitHub a plus
• Experience working directly with engineering teams

I don’t even know what PHP is. I do know what Ruby is, though. Should I try somewhere else? How about the travel company Expedia? Well, here’s their ad:

Expedia is seeking an experienced IT professional with a background in Technical Writing, Onboarding & Operational Readiness. The person will have responsibility for the creation/editing of technical content created by the Engineering teams and create onboarding/transition-support documentation, operational processes and procedures for the EDW Platform. This is a key role that will involve you partnering with the Engineering teams and creating the right level of high quality documentation and ensure that all procedural / technical details are gathered completely and accurately. This is a senior role that will require you to be self-disciplined, self-motivated professional. This will be a rich, rewarding opportunity for the right professional, to include exposure to some of the best IT talent and technologies in the world, and an opportunity to be largely self directed and to be afforded creative latitude to develop the processes for this new function.

Veeka and her troop hard at work selling those Thin Mints. Companies are hiring folks closer to her age than mine.

Veeka and her troop hard at work selling those Thin Mints. Companies are hiring folks closer to her age than mine.

One bright spot this month was that Veeka sold 55 boxes of Girl Scout cookies by slogging it out door to door and then she earned about 100 more points  helping sell cookies in front of various Safeways and WalMarts. I taught her how to present the cookie sale sheet; how to explain what each cookie contains and that we don’t collect the $4/box now but later when we deliver and by the time we were doing the last 10, she was getting pretty accomplished at her spiel. I had hoped for 30 sales; she easily surpassed that during our walks around the complex where we live, so I began to hope for more. We had finally reached 50 and were walking home when we dropped by a neighbor I’d met by the condo dumpster, who ordered 4 more. Veeka gets a badge if she reaches 55, so I threw in a box for us and her goal was met. And we got to meet a bunch of people near where we live.

West Coast rumble?

Screenshot 2016-03-17 03.07.06I’ve covered plenty of revivals in my time but what happens when one starts at your own church? Most are calling it the “West Coast Rumble” and naturally, it has its own Twitter handle already. Yep: #WestCoastRumble. Two 30-something pastors are key to the events here. The meetings started the last weekend in February and they haven’t stopped yet. First, some background. Last fall, I began attending a charismatic church called Seattle Revival Center that’s in a suburb called Newcastle across Lake Washington from Seattle and about nine miles from where we live. Chelsie, a woman who has special needs kids befriended me and (my daughter) Veeka, which was an enormous inducement to continue attending there.

Charlie Shamp's preaching and healing services are what helped start off the current revival services in Seattle

Charlie Shamp’s preaching and healing services are what helped start off the current “West Coast rumble”  just east of Seattle.

Starting Feb. 25, the church had a revival weekend – a “declaration” conference they called it – that I didn’t attend, as I had another conference in town that was more important for me to be at. Nashville evangelist Charlie Shamp, the Sunday morning speaker, got such a good reaction that they had a Sunday evening meeting as well. I had listened to Sunday morning online off the church’s website as my daughter wasn’t feeling great. I found the service rather underwhelming, to be honest, but others didn’t and so many people were said to be getting healed of various ailments, they extended meetings to Wednesday. I dropped by briefly that Wednesday night, but Veeka’s early rising hours the next day meant I couldn’t stay.
So I began watching services each night on the live feed from the church’s web site. What’s kind of fun is the chit-chat between those of us watching it (one can log in and leave comments and they have Google translate for non-English speakers) and the folks in the service will actually pray for petitions you email in. Some folks have contacted the church to say they’ve been healed while sitting by their computer watching it all. There’s no way to verify a lot of that but I’ve never heard of revival services incorporating various devices the way this one does.

Darren Stott (right) pastors SRC. Charlie Shamp is to the left.

Darren Stott (right) pastors SRC. Charlie Shamp is to the left.

That Thursday night (March 3), Shamp was being handed cell phones by some of the congregation whose friends had called in asking for prayer. On Friday night, Shamp asked audience members to call people right there and pray for them with their cell phones lifted up. I am sure this evangelist had only planned to stay in Seattle this one weekend and he wasn’t expecting a revival to spring up around his preaching, but as folks kept on showing up at the church, he’s remained in town. I’m not sure whether his wife has had to Fed Ex him a suitcase of clean clothes, but I think he turned 34 while all this was going on.
The pastor of Seattle Revival Center, aka SRC, is called Darren Stott and he too just had a birthday – I think that too was his 34th. He’s a pretty hip dude who gives some profound sermons but I don’t think even he was expecting something to blow up at his church. My grasp on some details is a bit foggy, but beginning in January, there was a revival at another church in San Diego that had the SRC folks all excited. Some even flew down to experience it, as they said there had been prophecies of a revival going up the Interstate-5 corridor from San Diego to Vancouver, BC (which is technically not on I-5 but we won’t argue over details).
Here is this Darren’s explanation of these meetings. One of his better quotes: “It feels like God has flown through the windshield of our bus, knocked us out of our seat, hijacked the bus and taken us to a new place we’ve not been before.”

Charlie Shamp praying into a cell phone.

Charlie Shamp praying into a cell phone.

Another moniker they’re applying to this event is “apple wine;” Washington state being the country’s largest producer of apples, exporting some 125 million boxes a year. So, there’s always an apple sitting by the podium during the service and there’s even a prophecy (from the San Diego folks) about God releasing apple wine over Seattle and the entire state. Which is pretty funny considering how secular a place this is. Politically, it’s bluer than blue. Culturally…let’s just say that when I take my many religion books to Half Price Books, a well-known local used book retail outlet, they just stare at me and explain how there’s no demand for books about God. In terms of religious movements, at least Los Angeles had Azusa Street (a famous 1906 revival that lasted four years) but nothing like that has happened further up the Left Coast.
In one of his taped messages a week or two into these meetings, “I feel like in the Northwest we are giving birth to a baby and it needs to be nurtured,” Darren said. “The Pacific Northwest is one of the most difficult places to be a pastor. Churches are closing down all over the place…(but) this is what I was born for!” That said, he added that he’d had 15 hours of sleep in three days, as people were flooding the place.
It’s sure been interesting to see how SRC has marshaled resources  to try to meet the demand. I talked with one couple who said they were experienced at handling revivals and they’d quickly shown up to offer their services at managing things. The church’s website was ramped up to provide some history of the past three weeks plus new graphics have been added plus links to videos of the meetings. Whoever’s doing the camera work for the services is pretty good although I know the church staff is stretched to the max and there’s been announcements asking for members to help out more. Soon after the meetings started, they put a black taped line around the perimeter of the sanctuary as a place for people to stand when they want prayer. It’s an efficient way to manage a lot of people at one time.

Charlie Shamp praying over one of many people who come forward for prayer.

Charlie Shamp praying over one of many people who come forward for prayer. Notice the catcher in back of her.

Anyway, on Saturday night (the 5th), a guest pastor named Suri came up to do the prayer for the offering. He called up two SRC pastors and then the three of them collapsed to the ground convulsed in laughter. So we watched the three of them roll about on the floor (one holding an apple) as everyone walked up and put money into the collection baskets. There’s a lot of talk about getting “drunk” on this apple wine of the Spirit at these meetings and some take that literally.
The truly funny moment (to me) was when Jeannette Wuhrman, the female half of the couple that helps out with revivals, got up to say announcements. She gave instructions on leaving one’s email near the back so they could be updated by the church on what’s going on “as soon as we know what that is.” That doesn’t sound funny but it actually was, because of course the church doesn’t have a clue what the end result of these meetings will be and they seem to be making it up as they go. Which lends an endearing quality, actually, as nothing is worse than something that’s obviously produced.
Most of the meetings are centered around Shamp calling out healings that he believes are happening among people there, or among those listening online or even among folks who know nothing of these meetings but have some connection with those attending or listening in. The church has posted one set of X-rays by someone claiming healing from cancer. There was one woman who got up at a service to say she was healed and then I saw her a few days later back in her wheelchair. Hmmm. There’s been echoes of 1990s Toronto revival stuff at these meetings; people claiming that God has given them gold fillings in their teeth (SRC has actually posted a photo of one such person’s mouth) plus reports of feathers drifting through the air. I’ve not seen any of the latter.

The children line up for prayer during a March 9 service at SRC.

The children line up for prayer during a March 9 service at SRC.

I finally did get to attend an entire meeting on Saturday the 5th on a rainy night. I’d say the sanctuary was about two-thirds full but not packed by a long shot. My daughter came with me and soon after we arrived, we went to the front and were prayed over briefly by the evangelist but nothing seemingly happened, so we repaired to a seat near the back. Next, there were several baptisms. I was noticing that the worship team had been playing pretty continuously since 7 pm and they had to be exhausted. There’s been a different worship team each night. This group came from elsewhere in the state, so apparently someone’s been calling around to bring in reinforcements or bands are calling the church to volunteer their services.
At around 10:30 p.m., everyone who wanted prayer lined up on the aforementioned border of black tape that had been placed around the sanctuary. Easily 70 or so folks lined up. As the evangelist and other ministers moved around the perimeter of the room, most of those being prayed for – like 99% – fell back to the ground in a faint-like trance known as being ‘slain in the Spirit.’ When they prayed for Veeka, she dropped to the ground and said later that she felt faint and overwhelmed, albeit in a good way. Unlike nearly everyone else, I did not fall. Believe me, I’ve been prayed over by the best of them – from Rodney Howard Browne (here’s my essay on what that was like) to the folks at the Toronto Airport Vineyard – and it simply doesn’t happen to me and I’ve stopped stressing over it. Veeka felt convinced that something deep had happened to her during the service and she had great hopes of being healed.

Jeannette Wuhrman giving announcements.

Jeannette Wuhrman giving announcements.

We returned the following Wednesday night (the 9th) where they were having a special prayer time for kids. Veeka went up for prayer, but felt nothing and didn’t drop to the ground as she had before. Plus, she was distraught over having prayed for healing on Saturday and then Wednesday night, only to have nothing happen. Kids don’t process too well not being healed when the preacher is stating that folks are getting delivered of everything from bladder problems to cancer via their cell phones, so I’ve not taken her to any nightly services since. Adults can better handle such disappointment, but kids don’t. I will say she likes listening to the nightly services on her iPad at home, so you never know.
I went back last night (the 16th) briefly. There were about 100 people there when the service started and maybe 125 when I had to leave to pick up Veeka from the Awana meeting, then went home to listen to the rest of the service online. Shamp was calling out specific healings, ie a woman listening in online who was hooked up to a breathing apparatus and a man with the last name of MacDonald. When people come up to the front to be prayed over, he places a hand on their forehead, blows on them and 9 out of 10 will crumple to the ground.

Suri (a visiting pastor) and two SRC pastors lie on the dias during a service laughing hysterically or "drunk" with "apple wine."

Suri (a visiting pastor in the white shirt) and two SRC pastors lie on the platform during a service (choose one) laughing hysterically or “drunk” with “apple wine.”

“Wheat God reveals, He heals,” he said – or maybe it was Darren who said that – can’t remember. “How many of you know it’s a done deal?”
It got very weird at one point last night when Shamp was asking everyone to say “Yum, yum” (in reference to the apple wine, I guess) and believing the Spirit would fall on them if they did so. “Less thinking, more drinking,” he would tell folks as a number of them were strewn about on the floor. I’m guessing SRC has had to requisition every able-bodied male they can find on the church rolls to be “catchers” for all the falling bodies.
So, what do I think? I’ve reported on and attended a bunch of these revivals, ranging from Toronto to Brownsville, many of which had petered out or ended badly. I remember interviewing the two pastors at the head of the Brownsville meetings and I asked them what was the most unexpected thing about having such an event at their church.

Shamp prays for a congregant. Stott is the catcher in the blue shirt.

Shamp prays for a congregant. Stott is the catcher in the blue shirt.

“Toilet paper,” they said. When the crowds show up, you can’t get enough of it. God knows that folks here in the Northwest have felt at the periphery of spiritual renewal. Other than pioneers like Dennis Bennett, this area is not a place known for its great spiritual life although the meteoric rise (and fall) of Mars Hill Church showed that the local populace will attend a house of worship if they find it engaging enough.
I’m certainly not on any inside track at this church, so I don’t know what sort of discussions are going on about the coming weeks. Judging from the online comments during the service, people are tuning in from around the world and there is a procession of local pastors visiting the place. One of them there tonight was a Nazarene, which amazed me, considering that his denomination is not known for being open to charismatic phenomena.

Enjoying the sun in Corpus Christi

Veeka overlooking the Gulf of Mexico from our restaurant

Veeka overlooking the Gulf of Mexico from our restaurant on the Bob Hall pier.

We are in Corpus Christi this week and it’s been so delightful feeling the sunny breezes. When we walked off the plane, we were wearing dark clothing for the gloomy weather we left behind and we looked like refugees from the Land Where Rain Never Stops. Meeting us were Bob and Nancy Eckert, who were major players in the saga of Church of the Redeemer that I wrote about in my 2009 book. Bob is now writing a book about his life and he asked me to come down for a week to help him finish it. Veeka and I have taken walks in the sun and visited two beaches, one of them a restaurant on a pier overlooking the Gulf of Mexico.
I’ve been following the Yukon Quest – which is a dog mushing race considered tougher than the Iditarod – and I found this delightful video about musk oxen, who live WAY north in Alaska and Greenland. So, click on it if you want to transport yourself up to the northern regions.
Back in Seattle – well, actually I live on the Eastside, a region where a lot of folks don’t travel downtown if they can help it. I run into plenty of people who tell me they are never in Seattle and don’t want to be. I try to get downtown if possible, as there are things there that one cannot find in the suburbs. It’s a place where you can find restaurants that serve “decadent vegan food” and where anything right of Bernie Sanders is mocked in the local media.

Veeka got a box of chocolates from one of her classmates for Valentines Day. Having all boys in her class has its advantages.

Veeka got a box of chocolates from one of her classmates for Valentine’s Day. Having all boys in her class has its advantages.

As it says in the Seattle Weekly “Conventional wisdom in Washington politics states that all the votes Democrats need to win a state majority can been seen from the Space Needle, but in recent elections Republicans have successfully nibbled at the edges of this turf.” This was from a column that lamented how the Neanderthals in eastern Washington are trying to outlaw abortion and that due to an unfortunate accident of geography, the much despised and red-state Idaho lies just to the east of that. Of course I’ve lived in blue states before but rarely where the loathing of all things conservative is so palpable.
Another really depressing part of being here is the housing. Homes everywhere are selling for more than half a million dollars; condos (which is what I’d probably be in) are edging close to $300,000. I’ll get some money from selling my house in Tennessee, but not that much. And without a full-time job, there’s no way I can make enough money to buy a home at present. Housing in King County, where I live, went up 11% in a year and it’s not going down any time soon. Not only that, but lots of Wall Street speculators are in town, buying up homes like crazy, then renting them. This editorial tells why consumers are being had over this. No wonder there’s so many homeless here in town!

My little Girl Scout in the process of selling those 55 boxes.

My little Girl Scout in the process of selling those 55 boxes.

One bright spot this month was that Veeka sold 55 boxes of Girl Scout cookies by slogging it out door to door. I taught her how to present the cookie sale sheet; how to explain what each cookie contains and that we don’t collect the $4/box now but later when we deliver and by the time we were doing the last 10, she was getting pretty accomplished at her spiel. I had hoped for 30 sales; she easily surpassed that during our walks around the complex where we live, so I began to hope for more. We had finally reached 50 and were walking home when we dropped by a neighbor I’d met by the condo dumpster, who ordered 4 more. Veeka gets a badge if she reaches 55, so I threw in a box for us and her goal was met. And we got to meet a bunch of people near where we live.