My first visit to British Columbia’s largest metropolis, as a stepping-off point to my first Alaskan cruise, offered me the opportunity to taste unique cuisines, stroll through the port’s nearby architecture, and meet west-coast Canadians. Arriving midday, midsummer, and midway through my marital separation, life in Vancouver offered a glimmering escape, a chance to window shop without children in tow, and a long stretch of afternoon into evening as the sunlight lingered well into the evening. Traveling with friends for the first time offered a vastly different view of travel than I had ever experienced. No family, no car, and no planning on my part marked my second soiree into Canada and the opportunity of a lifetime.
Fifteen years later, when finally returning to the northern nation’s western shore, the early days of autumn may not have offered as late a sunset, but the spectacular city again would be the place where my cruise ship moored. Despite the detailed planning for ninety-five percent of the vacation, Vancouver remained an open day of strolling and shopping. Much like San Francisco, the city’s greatest growth straddled between its port and railway connection, so I knew I could find plenty of curious locations to visit in my post-cruise excursion. At the very least, I did map out the nearest Tim Horton’s location (see Brock University from January 2012) to our hotel.
To Quote John Muir
Socked in by a summer haze of heat and eastern brush and forest fires, Seattle stretches its drought far past the one one-hundredths of an inch of rain received a few days prior. As I drive south on Interstate Five towards SeaTac, the effects of the fifty-three-day rainless stretch loom obviously as the horizon disappears into an off-color smog typically reserved for pollution-laden valleys, the industrial core beneath the Great Lakes, and the dense humidity of inland Florida. In less than a day, I will be on my way to the clear vistas of tranquil and breathtaking Alaska as soon as I drop off this rental car and get back to my hotel for a last night of landlubber sleep. Suddenly, with a gentle curve to the left, rising above the layer of smoky gunk, Mount Rainier appears like a massive spacecraft hovering and drifting towards Puget Sound. My jaw drops.
I walk from the rental car garage at the Seattle Airport towards the light rail station with an urgency not tapped since my vacation began more than two weeks ago. From the time I arrive at the station until the train departs for my return trip towards the Space Needle, I busily dial the phone numbers necessary to alter my departure from the Great White North immediately upon stepping off the Norwegian Pearl. I cancel one hotel night in Vancouver and add another night in Seattle for the following week. I move my shuttle across the Blaine border crossing to twenty-four hours earlier. I tap my smart phone for a one-day automobile rental for the following week, all without asking my travel companions. I fully understand one of John Muir’s most famous quotes, “The mountains are calling and I must go.”