Wildflower part two: the glass is half full edition

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So, when we last left our intrepid author, she’d just finished crying on the boat ramp and was getting ready to head back to camp. I went back to transition and gathered up the majority of my gear. I left Slim there because the shuttles for bikes wouldn’t be running until later in the afternoon and I did not have the wherewithal to lug him up the steep walking trail back to camp. Todd was kind enough to carry my pack and I started my mental shift toward the new agenda for the day by looking forward to a hot shower.

As we got into camp, I ran into numerous team mates who were surprised to see me and had to tell the sad tale of what happened. Everyone was so unbelievably supportive and kind, which really lifted my spirits. My shower was magnificent and after a little chilling at camp, we packed up a lunch cooler, my little portable chair, some cowbells and pom-poms and staked out a good place to cheer for Catherine when she came by on the bike.

It was really awesome to cheer for the other cyclists out on the course. (And, to be honest, seeing how miserable some of them looked really took the sting out of not being among them.) I had an idea of when Catherine should be coming by and before we knew it, there she was. She looked surprised to see me and when I cheered her on, she said something to the effect of pulling the plug after the bike. I told her she was absolutely (effing) not and then Todd and I powerwalked down to the transition area.

Because I still had my race numbers, I could go into the transition area and found her fully changed into her run gear, standing in front of her spot. Having been in this situation so many times myself, it was easy to see that she just needed a little nudge and she was going to be just fine. So, I coaxed her onto the run course with a “just go out for the first mile, if it really sucks you can come back. Besides, what else do you have to do today?” And just like that, she headed out.

I texted our OTC teammate Betsy the situation and told her I was grabbing my bike and then would meet her to cheer Catherine on the run course. Todd and I rode the blessed shuttle up the hill and I released him to go nap/chill in the campground, grabbed my hydration pack full of anything Catherine might want when she came by, my chair, can of wine and cheering supplies and joined Betsy to wait for Catherine at approximately the halfway point of the run. There was a long hill that Betsy was planning to run with Catherine and I said I would do the same. After a little while a few more team mates joined us and we made quite a commotion when Catherine finally came into view. This picture says it all:

She looked so strong and steady, we were all amped up with pride and excitement for her. Betsy and I headed to the next viewing spot, right before the one-mile descent back to transition. It was great to chat with Betsy and get to know her better. Some more of our teammates joined us to high five her as she came by, all smiles.

The only bummer about the set-up was that there was no real way for us to get to the finish line in time, so we left Catherine to her well-earned triumph and headed back to camp for a group photo:

Clif was hosting an 80’s party, so soon our camp was filled with all sorts of rad fashion:

One of our teammates brought his costume box, so those of us who weren’t as prepared as Ms. Erica here could still join in the fun:

So. Much. Awesome.

I hadn’t really brought a full costume for the party since I figured I’d just finish racing about the time it started. But I did find some crimped colorful hair extensions that I tucked into my bag. There was one black one that I pinned on Todd as a makeshift rat tail. So stylin’!

Sadly, the 80’s party was a little bit of a disappointment when we got there. They turned off the 80’s music for some country western band (?!?) so a lot of us abandoned the party to go spectate an impromptu beer mile happening in another part of the campground. It was fun to cheer on that insanity and then we headed back to camp. By that point, we could hear that the 80’s party had ramped up, but we were too tired to go back.

The next morning, Todd and I had a leisurely morning at camp and then headed down to cheer on the sprint and olympic athletes. It was such a blast to cheer for everyone and see OTC kick some major ass. We stationed ourselves in the same bike course spot as yesterday and got to see most of the olympic distance folks pass by on the bike. Then, we went back and packed up camp. Originally, we were told that the roads were closed until 3, so I was planning to pack up and then go down to the finish to cheer. But, after we’d packed up, we noticed cars leaving the campground and decided to press our luck. I had to catch a plane to North Carolina early the next morning, so any extra time to pack my suitcase and be at home was too tempting to pass up. I was super bummed to miss the finish line antics and hear everyone’s race stories, but I will plan better for next year and not have a stupid business trip right non the heels of this race.

As you might imagine, I am already planning ahead for next year. I definitely have unfinished business with this course and a head full of plans on how to improve. Stay tuned for Wildflower: the redemption edition post in 2019! Huge thanks to all of my OTC peeps. This would have been such a huge bummer of a weekend without you!

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Wildflower part one: the “what happened” edition

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For those unfamiliar with triathlon culture or who haven’t had to listen to me yammer on about my doings (you lucky bastards!), Wildflower is an iconic race that’s been around for ~35 years. It bills itself as the “Woodstock of triathlon” which is pretty accurate. It’s this weird combination of hippie festival and Type A sporting event. And I’ve wanted to do it for as long as I’ve known about it – approximately ten years or so. But logistics of flying to a race where you need to camp combined training for an early May half ironman in the Pacific Northwest were too daunting. Then, after we moved back to CA, the drought had taken it’s toll on the event – the lake levels continued to drop until last year when they had to cancel it.

So, when the announcement came that Wildflower was coming back, I decided this was a sign from the universe and pulled the trigger pretty early. I’d been wanting a big goal to train for and now I lived close enough to be able to drive my ridiculous amounts of stuff there. Plus, as an added bonus, OTC announced it as a club race, so there were a ton of people to train and camp with. Huzzah!

Spring rocketed by and, before I knew it, it was time to pack up the car and head to Lake San Antonio!

I wanted to get there early so that we could settle in and not do a big three hour drive the day before the race. I was very glad I did, because there was a little bit of drama with our camping sites. The club had been promised ten reserved sites, but between the event organizers not really marking them and mis-communication over which campgrounds were first-come/first-serve, we only had three. Thankfully, our president carries caution tape in his truck, (WTF Charlie?) so we hastily marked off some open space:

But, thankfully we got that resolved and we could settle into the serious business of glamping. Charlie’s hammock got the party started:

Then Todd raised the ante with his inflatable couch and travel bar:

And then it just went from there. Todd and I have met our match!

The next morning we went down to the festival/race start. I knew this was a big race, but looking at the transition area was the first solid indication:

The swim start/finish. The long concrete hill to climb after swimming was an especially nice touch…

There were these cool steps with the winners’ names on them. It was basically a greatest hits list of racers in this sport. It reminded me of the bricks at Ironman Canada in Penticton – such a sense of triathlon history.

They also had these big cut-outs of famous past racers (I assume?) set up around the park. It was pretty cool.

It was hard to stay off your feet and rest before the race. There was a huge expo to look at, packets to pick-up, food trucks, music, etc. But I finally tore myself away and went back to the camp site to put my feet up and watch Erica hang the disco ball:

You heard me, disco ball!

The majority of the group had shown up by this point, so we had a great afternoon/evening of hanging out and chatting:

Then it was time to go to bed because the next morning was race day! (I have butterflies just typing that.) Ear plugs and melatonin helped me get a few hours, but I did my usual tossing and turning, followed by the butterflies/pit of dread in my stomach when it’s time to get up. It’s weird that I choose to do a sport where I don’t actually enjoy competing. I love to train for a goal, but the actual racing – not so much.

So, as I gathered my backpack of race gear and headed down to the start, I was doing my usual pre-race warm-up of breathing/trying not to cry/going to the porta-potty a million times.  The transition area now looked like this, so I had LOTS of company:

Photo credit: Erica Hruby

I hadn’t really planned well for a bright and sunny start line (note for next year, bring cheap sunglasses… ) and was generally feeling rattled. They said that transition would be closed at 8, 45 minutes before my start time and I didn’t know if I would see Todd beforehand with the huge crowd, so I had to leave my watch and wedding ring in transition instead of giving them to him. By the time I saw him, I was a little bit of a mess. He’s seen this movie before, to he hugged me and helped me into my wetsuit and generally calmed me down.

We found a place to sit on the dock and watched the swim waves start. It was good to take a minute to chill and gather myself. I was still super nervous, but feeling okay. Way too soon, it was time to put on my hot pink swim cap and join my wave. I gave Todd a final hug good-bye and headed over.

The swim start is super narrow and I’ve heard many stories of getting punched and kicked, so I started way in the back of my wave. As usual, the adrenaline of the race start had my heart rate through the roof, so I did my customary stop/breast-stroke for a couple of strokes to look at where I was heading, get my breathing under control and find my rhythm. I’ve done this so many times and while I’m not a fast swimmer, I am a steady one. I usually settle into a nice stroke, find a line a little off the buoy line, so I’m not getting swum over by faster swimmers behind me and get it done.

But this time, I just couldn’t seem to catch my breath. I stopped and breast-stroked a few more times and it just wasn’t working, so I finally stopped at one of the safety kayaks and paused for a little while trying to figure out what to do. (The poor 20-something on the kayak had no idea what to do with me, so thankfully my only real option was to keep swimming – either back to shore or to finish the course.) I started to feel better and so I headed out again.

The swim course is a big triangle and my kayak stop was probably a third of the way up the first side of the the triangle and I was finally starting to feel better and get into my groove a little bit. Then when I made it to the turnaround point (the top of the triangle) it felt like someone stepped on my chest. I moved over to the side, so I wasn’t in the way of all the swimmers, but I was seriously freaking out (which didn’t really help things). I was wheezing and thinking about all of Todd’s pre-heart attack symptoms and various bad scenarios.

So, when the second 20-something kayaker asked if I was okay, I was like “I don’t think so?” Like the first one, he didn’t really know what to do once I said I thought I needed to stop, but thankfully he found a lady with a radio who did. I cried on his kayak for a bit while the medical team came over to give me a ride back to shore. They handed me off to some nice paramedics (one of whom made my day by asking my age and then doing a double take when I told him. It’s the little things, right?) The paramedics checked me out, ran an EKG and listened to my lungs. They asked me a million questions and didn’t really have any explanation for me, but at least I could rule out my horror scenarios.

I walked up the ramp to meet Todd and had a good cry saying good-bye to the race day I wanted and accepting the one that I got. I was full of doubts that I’d done the right thing. (Was it lack of fitness? Was it an anxiety attack? Would it happen again?) Thankfully, my many years of doing this sport kicked in and I had to accept that even if I’d “toughened up” and made it back to shore, I was in no shape to tackle a long, hot, hilly bike ride and would likely have not made the bike cut-off. That mental picture went a long way and helped me be thankful that I could listen to my body, even when I didn’t like what it was saying. Plus, having my race end on the swim meant that I could still cheer Catherine on the bike and run. Stay tuned for part two!

Easter weekend adventures

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This weekend was an Easter basket full of awesome. On Saturday, Todd and I went out and rode with Oakland Tri Club on a beautiful Marin ride. It’s a recovery week for me, so it was a nice relaxing ride followed by a lovely brunch. Then we had a few hours to relax before meeting up with Erik, Nerissa and their friends Janis and Dave for our Intro to Curling class. (Yes, you read that correctly… )

For those who are unfamiliar, curling is that sport you may have seen during the Winter Olympics where people try to slide these big weighted stone pieces into a bullseye on the ice, while their team mates frantically smooth the ice in front of it with brooms. Unsurprisingly, it’s a lot harder than it looks. First we learned how to launch the stones. You press one foot into this little starting block looking thing anchored into the ice, place the other foot onto this little Teflon slidey-thing and then put one hand onto either your broom (if you know what you’re doing) or a plastic beginner version and the other hand on the stone. Then you basically crouch down and kick off with the foot on the starting block, hoping to move into a graceful lunge forward…

But often ending up in a crazy mess:

But we eventually got the hang of it:

After they taught us the various skills/techniques, they had us play a game against another group of people. Every junior high P.E. anxiety flooded through me, but I tried to play it cool. The first game, my stone had to get a pity push from one of the instructors, but the second time it shockingly not only made it all the way to the other side, it actually landed inside the bullseye and was the only point we scored. Here I am with my winning stone:

It was really fun. Even for a girl who hates ice and slippery surfaces. 😉 Many thanks to Nerissa for organizing!

The next day was Easter Sunday. My typical Easter plans usually involve me realizing it’s Easter about half-way through, usually when I’m trying to go to a store that’s closed. This year, Erik & Nerissa invited us to join them on their traditional Fancy Easter Brunch at the Ritz in Half Moon Bay. The weather was PERFECT:

Brunch was ridiculously awesome. Words cannot describe it, so here’s a picture of Nerissa with the world’s tiniest carrot:

Nerissa was rocking the bunny ears and even got Erik to participate:

Todd and I had to rely on Instagram filters for our Easter spirit, but I hope you all had a great Easter holiday!

Stuffed full of gratitude

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Longtime readers of this blog may have noticed that over the time I lived in Seattle, I carved out a set of traditions on Thanksgiving. The Ballard Turkey Trot followed by bagels with M & J and later on dinner with M, J and any other folks we happened to rope into the festivities. So, I was really nervous about what we were going to do this year and was already trying to figure out my exit strategy so it wasn’t a huge bummer weekend. (Ironically, I was planning to visit Erik & Nerissa in the Bay Area before the universe stepped in and helped me out with that arrangement.)

Even with the new surroundings, I still found myself thinking a lot about M and that whole situation. As I prepped the sweet potatoes she’s always requested, I allowed myself to enjoy the memories of our past holidays and, without getting too woo-woo about it, said good-bye to that part of my life and wished her well. I joked to T that it was culinary equivalent of pouring out a forty for your fallen homie. (We’re so gangsta now… )

TD15_SweetPotatoes

So, it is time to forge some new traditions. This year, we were hosting Erik & Nerissa in a house that one month ago movers were loading boxes into. (Talk about something to be grateful for!) We opted to trade the Turkey Trot for a nice hike, but we decided to keep the bagels portion of the program. So, Erik & Nerissa joined us for some carbo-loading and we all headed over to the beautiful parks near our house.

They brought Kali with them, who was very happy to be here:TD15_ErikNerissaHikeWe had a nice long hike. Austin got to be off leash for a lot of it and had a great time running through the woods. The rest of enjoyed a more leisurely pace:

TD15_GroupHikeI can’t believe these views are only a few miles from my house:

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We ended up hiking for almost two hours, which was a little more than Wally had in mind. He was pretty wiped. Even Kali and Austin were pretty chill when we got home…

TD15_KaliAustinWe had some time before dinner, so we ate snacks and played some Mexican Dominoes. (There may have also been some champagne… )

TD15_MexicanDominosWe finished the game and made a huge and delicious dinner. We ate and drank good wine and had a lovely meal. Then there was Cards Against Humanity and more wine and laughing so hard my clavicle hurt. Followed by pie.

TD15_CAH(Photo courtesy of Nerissa… )

It is ridiculous how much I have to be thankful for this year. With all of the terrible things happening in the world, it seems so important to appreciate good fortune while you have it. I hope you and yours are enjoying similarly awesome holidays right now.

Adventures in Oakland

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We’ve been settling in to our new life. It’s really weird to have mild sunny weather in November, but we’re enjoying it while it lasts. Working at home has been an adjustment, but, for the most part, I’m enjoying it. The dogs have found their own routine where they battle over who gets the chair by my desk:

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And because my office is upstairs, I try to limit Wally’s trips up and down the stairs. When I make him stay up there, he gives me his famous sad Lab face:

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T takes Austin to the office a couple of days a week, so I see this face a lot…

T found an awesome dog park really close to his office, so we went and checked it out one day after work. Not only is there tons of space for Austin to run around and chase critters, but there are gorgeous views of the bay and San Francisco:

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Why yes, that is the Golden Gate Bridge at sunset. From the dog park… Crazy talk!

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We’ve been enjoying exploring the trails near our house:

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This trail is only three miles away from my very urban neighborhood. It’s crazy.

We’ve also some fun adventures. We got to spectate cyclocross with my friend Katy:

Cyclocross

We took Austin down to meet Erik & Nerissa’s dog Kali. Since they are basically the same special dog, they had so much fun playing.

AustinKali

It was a lovely evening until T dropped a knife while carving chicken. It bounced back up and nicked his calf. With the blood thinners that he’s on, it bled A LOT, so we ended up in Urgent Care:

UrgentCareT

Luckily, he didn’t need any stitches and was totally fine.

I had another crazy thing happen. One day, when I was getting some water in the kitchen, I heard this weird noise. It turned out to be a hummingbird. IN my kitchen. Trying to get out the closed window. I was so scared that he was going to die trying to get out (or I would inadvertently kill him trying to get him out of there.) I took a broom and he’d land on it for a moment or two before resuming his efforts. Thankfully, he moved to a new window and I could remove the screen from the one next to it. I couldn’t resist taking a picture of him before his successful escape:

IndoorHummingbird

It was so crazy to see one so close. I guess that’s what we get for painting our kitchen red. 😉 I’m just glad this little nugget was at the office with his dad:

Austin

Pacific Northwest Farewell Tour

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Before departing for California, I had a few more stops on my Pacific Northwest farewell tour. First up, a trip to the Oregon Coast with Susan. Baby Austin had never been, so we felt obligated to remedy that situation immediately. And I’m not sure who enjoyed it more, us or Austin. Nope, that’s not true, it was DEFINITELY Austin and his BFF Blue:

OC_BoysRunning6 They ran…

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And ran…

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And ran…

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And ran some more…

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It was so much fun to watch them. Austin chased birds and ran into the ocean and generally had the best time ever. At one point we saw some horses, so we put the dogs back on leash. Which was good, because they were VERY interested in those horses:

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Wally didn’t get to frolic off-leash, partly because he doesn’t always play well with other dogs and because he still has delusions of his youthful strength and stamina. Because there are two of them and one of me, I had to use my hands-free running leash set up to wrangle the two of them:

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We had some time to kill before our room was ready, so we went for lunch and taunted T with a sunny selfie:

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And then took the younger dogs for a second beach session. Austin was just as exuberant as ever, but Blue was definitely conserving his energy, stalking his prey:

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But he rallied:

OC_BoysRunning4Finally, we got the call that our room was ready. We checked into a dog-friendly room with a really great view. (And shortly after I took this picture, the fog rolled in. So, it was good that I snapped it early!)

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The hotel had all of these rabbits on the property. Austin was OBSESSED with them.

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As were Blue and Lola. Wally was too busy sleeping off the beach time… It was like Doggie TV:

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Susan and I drank wine on the balcony and then walked across the street for dinner. It was fantastic end to a wonderful day. The next morning, we went for a nice breakfast and photographed some local “art”:

OC_LocalArt

Then it was time to drop the dogs off with Susan in Salem and move on to the next phase in my trip: visiting Erin & David in Bend. I hadn’t been there since T’s race last year, so I was excited to see them and catch up. I arrived Friday night after a long day of driving for me and a trip to Vegas for Erin, so it was a chill evening of wine and chatting.

The next day, we started our morning by taking the dogs for a bike/jog. They have a contraption where you hook the dogs into a frame near the front wheel of a bike. The dog runs and you ride. It’s super fun and a great way to tire out dogs quickly! Then we went to lunch, followed by a distillery tour/tasting.

The tour was interesting and apparently all stills are really cool and steampunky:

Bend_Distillery

We couldn’t resist the obvious photo op:

Bend_ErinMeDistilleryI liked the way they did tastings. First, they give you this sheet and you can pick six things to try:

Bend_DistilleryTastingMenuThen they place them on the sheet, so you can keep track:

Bend_DistilleryTasting

They also do small, inexpensive cocktails that feature the various spirits. It was such a great way to try the products. (Not to mention, a very fun way to spend an afternoon!) David had to work, so Erin & I went to see the movie Grandma at this super cute little theatre. (We both wanted it to be better than it was… ) Afterward, we had a light dinner at this great restaurant (with the creepiest waitress!) It was so great to catch up with Erin and a super fun evening.

The next morning, we went out for a hike. Bend is a fascinating place. We started out at this really cool volcanic park:

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Then we drove to another section that was still volcanic, but with more forest:

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Erin climbed onto a rock to take a photo, but of course that meant she had to get photographed. Naturally, she rocked it:

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The hike was filled with all of these interesting twisted trees and cool combinations of lava and trees:

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I wrapped up my trip by hanging out with my parents in Portland. It was a whirlwind, but I’m so glad that I had a chance to see everyone before the big move. As I was driving, I tried to soak in all of the natural beauty of this area and bid it a fond mental “see you later”. It’s hard to believe that soon I will be in California!

Victor: Victoria

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While we were still waiting to hear if T got the job, we thought it would be nice to do a weekend getaway for T’s birthday either before everything got all crazy or to cheer ourselves up. (So happy it was the former!) We chose Victoria because I’d never been (and T was there in elementary school, which barely counts… ) Plus, it’s a pretty easy trip from Seattle on the Victoria Clipper. We bid farewell to gray, drizzly Seattle very early on Friday morning:

Victoria_SeattleHarbor

We landed in Victoria three hours later. It’s a stupidly charming little town. On Reed’s advice, we decided to stay in the understated Empress Hotel:

Victoria_Empress

Despite it only being 11 am, they were kind enough to let us check into our room. And is it just me, or do beautiful old hotels always have a Shining vibe to them?

Victoria_EmpressHallwayAnd PDX has nothing on the carpet at the Empress:

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The view from our room was not too shabby…

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And I loved seeing the architectural details from the window:

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We went out to grab a little lunch and walk around for a bit. Victoria is stupidly charming.

Victoria_HarborViewAnd has a surprising amount of native art around town. Such as these totem poles that date back to 1911.

Victoria_TotemPolesWhen I was a kid, my parents had visited Victoria and had high tea at the Empress and told many stories about it. I’d always wanted to go, so we decided to indulge as part of our trip. T was kind enough to go to high tea on his birthday. He’s such a good sport! (If you look over his shoulder, you can see the typical demographic for this activity… )

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Our waiter was kind enough to take our picture:

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It was quite the fancy affair, like something out of Downton Abbey:

Victoria_HighTeaChinaVictoria_HighTeaGoodies

It was definitely over-priced and a little too touristy, but it was fun. (Plus, isn’t a solid preview of your golden years the perfect way to celebrate your birthday?) Since we were on a tourist kick, I figured why not check out Miniature World? It was a quirky little museum full of dioramas, ranging from the historical:

Victoria_MiniWorld1To an interesting replica of the Trans-Canadian railroad:

Victoria_MiniWorld2Look, it’s old-timey Toronto:

Victoria_MiniWorld3And all sorts of other things. I didn’t get a picture of it, but there was a working model of a sawmill (that they couldn’t operate any more because it’s a fire hazard, but they had a video of it that was cool.) Some of the dioramas were really artistic:

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And some were clearly older, and a little… um… odd:

Victoria_MiniWorld5There was even a miniature car show:

Victoria_MiniWorld6And a circus that moved from night…

Victoria_MiniWorld7…To day:

Victoria_MiniWorld8We even saw Camelot!

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It was the perfect kind of cheesy fun. I made it up to T by letting him take a nap and them taking him to a legitimately cool cocktail bar and then an awesome tapas place for dinner. They light up the Parliament building at night. Look how pretty it is:

Victoria_NightMy phone didn’t capture the lights as well as I would have liked. Here’s a better sense of it from the next morning:

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The next day, we got up and wandered around Victoria while we waited to meet up with Khai and his lady (Andrea). We walked through a cool park, where we saw a huge group of tourists taking a picture of a peacock in a tree. And we passed this statue of Terry Fox:

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We even got to see the Clipper coming in, with today’s batch of tourists:

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We passed these strange stairs leading into the freezing cold ocean (later on, we’d see a second set, so apparently it was a thing… ):

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And then happened upon this cool floating house neighborhood:

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They even let us wander down the dock:

Victoria_FloatingHomeDockThere were some cute retail shops mixed in with the homes. I loved these little guys:

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On our way back to the hotel, I stopped to take a picture of this super weird, (and kind of racist), statue. I particularly like the dog…

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We had an awesome brunch with Khai and Andrea and walked on a road high above the water. It was a surprisingly lovely day after the overcast, drizzly morning. Given how long it took them to get there, I was so appreciative that they made the trip! We ended our second day in Victoria at a cool Scottish pub:

Victoria_Pub

The next morning, we only had a little time to go get some breakfast before we caught the Clipper back home. While I was getting ready in the bathroom, I heard T talking to someone. I came out to see this:

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Meet T’s new friend:

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We checked out of the hotel and got into the crazy long check in line for the Clipper just as it started pouring rain. The trip home was decidedly more crowded and choppy than the trip out had been. It wasn’t the best way to end our weekend, but we will focus on all of the good parts instead. So begins our farewell tour of the Pacific Northwest…