Many of you know that Kristen and I have been together for quite a while. 14 years to be exact, since that moment late in my freshman year at A&M when we became a "couple", dating for 3.5 and now married for almost 10.5. Together Kristen and I have travelled near and far, taking time out to visit such places as Italy, Spain and France. We have bought and sold a home. We have owned 5 cars. We have two amazing kids. And Watson, our first dog, the first significant purchase we made as a couple, passed away only a few short months ago, after more than a decade with us. Needless to say, we have shared many memories, some good and some bad, but throught it all she continues to be the love of my life. Despite the fact that in many ways we are polar opposites, I could not have picked a better partner to tackle this life with. I would not be the same man without her. But getting down to business, this blog started as a way for she and I to tell about our journeys in a way that we could easily go back and remember together. It started as a way to give our family and friends a way to peek into our adventures and share personal, intimate moments that we hold so dear. So, for one post, I am getting back to its origins, taking time out to share our anniversary vacation with those who wish to read about it.
It started on a Saturday, March 9th. Kristen and I loaded three 50 plus pound bags with clothes, snow gear and only god knows what and left Houston behind with our sights set on Vancouver. Five hours, one conversation with a teenager travelling alone who the airline forgot to assist a fairly terrible snack box purchased for the ripe sum of $7 from the delightful Continental crew, we landed in British Columbia knowing that we had a journey ahead of us. The world did not take much notice of Vancouver until 2010... Of course... it seems that Vancouver, in its debut for the world during the Olympic games, decided to build new/modern structures that would dazzle its worldwide visitors. This was made apparent even at the airport. A mall-like structure with wood panel ceilings, glass/steel catwalks, stainless railings, a giant waterfall... you name it. But let's be honest, it has nothing on IAH. Right.
After getting through customs, we made our way to the rental car counter, finding ourselves behind the wheel of a BMW for our trek to Whistler. Of course, in Whistler a B'mer mearly "fits in". Hell, in Vancouver a B'mer only fits in. There are more Italian sports cars and German luxury vehicles than one can count. I think Kristen got tired of me saying... "Look at that Lambo!" It never got old to me. We quickly realized why Vancouver is known for its active lifestyle. It is a terrible city to drive in. Don't get me wrong, the buildings are Architectural marvels, the ocean is beautiful, the mountains are breathtaking, the trees and landscape can't be beat, the people are even extremely attractive, but for some reason Canadians cannot sync their lights in the downtown area. Couple that with a hoard of tourists and locals trying to escape the city going in the same general direction towards Whistler and the lack of a tunnel system for pedestrians to use and you get a 1.5 hour 20 mile hike across Vancouver to reach the open road of the sea to sky highway. We even had one Canadian later during the week remark to us about what he liked about the states... "The loops... Bypasses..." He most definitely said a mouthful.
However, despite the strain of getting across Vancouver, the area seemed to lift your spirits almost as fast. Once through downtown, we crossed Lion's Gate bridge (breathtaking), and hit the sea to sky highway. For those who have never had the opportunity to drive this glorious stretch of concrete, I suggest you try to make it happen in your lifetime. No picture or comment I could show or give you at this point could even describe the visuals you are constantly greeted by on this drive. The mountains soar out of the ocean and interfere with the clouds above. The steep cliffs that provide the overlooks into the harbors, which provide shelter for the sail boats, barges and other boats are majestic. I have been to a number of beautiful places in the world, the wine country in Tuscany and Northern California, the sunflower fields in Spain, the rocky coastline of the Italian Riviera, but as I told Kristen, I think this trumps all of them. Not to mention, the road when driven with an all wheel drive BMW quickly turns into a race course. Just driving (leaving out the picturesque views) was a highlight. I tried to get Kristen in on the fun, but she would have nothing to do with it. One thing we did find interesting during the drive was the town of Squamish. There, on the west side of the highway in the middle of town, we saw it. Wal-Mart. We laughed since it was seemingly so out of place (we did not see another in any place went on the rest of trip), and also because latelro. when we were on the way home we stopped in to find a cheap umbrella and found that the employees in Squamish are not unlike those found in the the North Fry Wal-Mart in Katy, Texas.
As we got closer and closer to Whistler, I got more and more excited as we began to see mountain slopes full of snow. I still act like a kid when I get close to the white stuff. I don't have to shovel it, rake it off my car or blow it off my roof or driveway so when I see snow, it's always for fun only. Whistler is what you would expect from a mountain ski resort. Nestled in the valley between Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains, Whistler was home to many events during the 2010 Winter Olympics. It must have been a zoo as the world descended on this village. Kristen and I pulled up to the Pan Pacific Village Center and checked in to our one room suite. Whistler is also expensive, and our hotel room, while modest, was the most expensive we have stayed at outside a French Chateau. What's even more fun, it had a Murphy bed. A really comfortable Murphy bed, but a Murphy bed none the less. Tired from the travel, we ate dinner at a local tapas place, walked around the village and hit the sheets in anticipation of our full day of activities, our only one, in Whistler.
First up the next morning was ZipTrek Eco Tours. Hanging perilously 150+ feet at times over a white water river or snow covered slopes, surrounded by 400 year old fir trees, we launched ourselves on zip lines forwards, backwards, right side up, upside down. It was exhilarating and the first of many times during the trip we would sign our life away in order to have an experience. Much like many of the activities we did while in Vancouver, the pictures and videos we took do not do it any justice. We walked through icy forest paths to each launch pad learning about the wildlife (black bears, moose, wolves) and plant life. The longest zip line on the tour (5 total) was 2200' long, an amazing ride. Finishing the trek, and after a light lunch, we took the Whistler gondola (free) to the Coca Cola tube park that was also built for the Olympics, for entertainment and some down time. The park had six long runs and thankfully a moving walkway that would take you and your tube from the bottom of the hill to the top. Considering you paid by the hour (about $20-25/hour each) this was very welcomed. The employee at the park assisting people down the hill enjoyed his job tremendously, slinging unsuspecting guests into a whirlwind as they sped down the hill. He even took the time to tell me about the time he really let one kid have it who decided to cuss at him for one reason or another. He did give Kristen the ride of her life. Post tube, we sat at the top of the hill in the snow so I could "play" even if for a few minutes sinking myself to my knees in the untouched snow above the park. I think the park employees made fun of me the entire time, but of course I didn't care. Not a moment to spare and after a brief snack and beer, we again rode the gondola to the Whistler Sliding Center, home of the luge, bobsled and skeleton during the Olympics. At the sliding center, any average Joe (with money, always with money) can test their hand at a shortened version of either/or or both the skeleton and bobsled. Thinking of the kids and their need for a daddy (and because the times did not work), I decided to bypass the skeleton and ride the bobsled with Kristen.
The three things you need to know about the bobsled. 1. It starts slow. 2. It gets really fast (we topped out at 128.6 km/hr) and 3. You feel like you were in a car accident when you are done. The 5G's of force on your head and neck coupled with tight turns and ridiculous speeds make this both dangerous and incredibly awesome. Would love to do it again sometime. After bobsledding, Kristen and I hit the road back to Vancouver. We checked into the Opus Hotel only to find an IPad and cell phone waiting for us in our room. The hotel supplies their guests these devices to use during their stay. Lets just say, the cell phone and its free data would come in handy in many situations as we walked, trained and bused our way through Vancouver. A long day, car ride and late check-in had us getting room service and calling it a night.
Back up the next day (our last with the rent car), we made our way to one of Vancouver's most well known landmarks, the Capilano Suspension Bridge. The bridge was originally built in the late 1800's with wood planks and hemp rope, but luckily they have made several upgrades of the last 125 years. The bridge is several hundred feet long suspended 160' over the Capilano River. Does it sway when you walk on it? Yes. Is it disturbingly high over the river? Yes. Did we love it? Of course. After walking the bridge, and taking the journey through the park's treetop canopy tour, we found ourselves at the park's newest attraction... The cliff walk. A tight steel and glass walkway that extends 15' out from the cliffs falling into the river, giving those brave enough to walk another amazing view of the river valley. We completed our bridge tour and journeyed to
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