The Wandering Tops

The Wandering Tops

18 July, 2015

Welcome home

What a wonderful welcome home - our son standing with all the suit clad chauffeurs with two signs saying Mother and Dad!!!

The flight home was quite rough at times however sitting third row from the back of the plane could have something to do with the ride!  After a wonderful greeting at the airport by Todd and his partner Tenelle we were driven back to their townhouse @ Burleigh Heads where we got a great night sleep and were ready the next day to pick up our van and be on the road again.

Had a couple of 'moments' when driving as started to drive down the right side of the road before Helen had to remind me we were back in Australia.  Amazing as I did not have any hassles adjusting to driving in Canada & Alaska however once back home and in more familiar surroundings, had a couple of hiccups when the wipers came on instead of the indicators!!

What a great 10 week adventure we had meeting so many people and seeing scenery that is so much different to what we are used to in Australia.  Having said that we are happy to be back home and ready to be back into our van and heading north.

15 July, 2015

Santa Monica

After surviving the bus trip we caught a plane from Vancouver to LA then caught taxi to Santa Monica which took forever as it was a warm Sunday and EVERYONE was enjoying the beach. Settled into Hotel Carmel which was situated right in the heart of Santa Monica with only a short stroll to the famous Pier.  Took in the sights, walked up and down Third Street Promenade (did not venture into the shops!), walked up and back to Venice Beach passing the original Muscle Beach where we stopped for a while to look at some of the 'performances' of the muscle men & women.

From the top of the cliff looking towards Santa Monica Pier

From the beach looking back to Santa Monica

Santa Monica Beach

Muscle Beach, both Hels and I had plenty to watch!

The carnival on Santa Monica Pier

The western end of Route 66 at Santa Monica Pier

Entertained by a busker on the pier so Hels chipped in some change.

More of the beach

Venice beach, all sorts of stalls and people!

3rd Street Promenade was busy during the day but came to life with restaurants and buskers at night 

Sculpture on 3rd Street Promenade

Also took in a Hollywood Tour - Amazing LA Tours - which drove us into LA where we stopped at the Walk of Fame, walked up steps where the red carpet is laid down for the Oscars, visited the old Chinese Theatre, sighted the Hollywood Sign,   We toured through Hollywood to Farmers Market, Melrose Ave, Rodeo Drive with many famous landmarks  pointed out to us ie where Marilyn Munro lived, where Elvis used to get his hot dog fixes from (he was so impressed with the waitress service he tipped a pink convertible!),

You haven't been to Hollywood unless you have a piccie of the sign!
Hollywood walk of fame,

Just so busy, people dressed as movie characters and others selling tours .

Madam Tussaud Wax museum

Beverly Hills, say no more

Rodeo Drive, famous for the shopping experience, we didn't stop.

Department store used in the movie Pretty Women

Whisky a GoGo, The club has been the launching pad for bands including Mötley Crüe, The Doors, Van Halen, and Guns N' Roses. In 2006, the venue was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame..

Pinks Hot Dog restaurant is a landmark in the Hollywood district of LA. Founded buy Paul and Betty Pink in 1939 and still operating today. 

The diner is known for Elvis Presley tipping the waitress a pink Cadillac
Spent the last day of Santa Monica walking up the beach and sitting 'people watching' which gives you the opportunity to see so many different people!!  To add to our excitement we had a bomb scare across the road from our Hotel on our last day and we had to wait until we could get into the Mexican Restaurant for lunch - such an inconvenience!!!  By the time we were headed to the Airport we were ready to come home, see our son & partner, pick up the Van and head off into the sun.

09 July, 2015

Okanagan Valley

We organised another road trip for a few days in the Okanagan Valley, this time we decided against hiring a Mustang and went for a more conservative and practical SUV much to Helen's liking.

Back at Lake Louise, this time not frozen.

We drove from Calgary past Banff to Lake Louise which looked very different to when we had visited previously in the Motorhome.  On our first visit in May the lake was frozen and surrounded by snow capped mountains, however this visit in July the lake was not frozen and people were enjoying canoeing,   From Lake Louise we headed west through Golden on Highway 1 turning off at Sicamous then onto Vernon which is in the northern part of the Okanagan Valley.

Always roadworks with long delays

We stayed at Fairfield Inn in Vernon for three nights and doing day trips south into the valley taking in wineries and the magnificent Oakanagan Lake.  Our first day consisted of driving down to Okanagan Falls via Oyama, Winfield, Kelowna, across the floating bridge to West Kelowna, Peachland, Summerland, Penticton.  This area is well known for wineries and Briony picked out some to visit - choosing by name only!!Visited 'See Ya Later Winery' (thinking it was owned by Aussies with a name like that, but it was a memorial for dogs which had passed away on the ranch! ) A lot of the wines were named after various ranch dogs.  We drove up east side of Okanagan Lake to 'Therapy Winery' (think I needed it after transporting the girls around!!), took in a lookout before headed down west side to 'Dirty Laundry Winery'.  I was sober bob driver so the girls took advantage of the wine tastings with Hels ending up giggling most of the way home!!

Great way to cool off - large inflatables to hold the whole family and float down stream

View from See Ya Later winery back towards Penticton

At the See Ya Later winery adjacent the dog cemetery.

Another winery - Dirty Laundry looks over the Okanagan Valley

Hope you can read the sign - at Dirty Laundry

Had trouble getting the girls away from the tasting.

After the tasting, propped up by a peg!! note the dark glasses!!

Lots of car and collectibles around the grounds of the Log Barn

At the Log Barn

The Log Barn has this walkway for the goats, you put some grain feed in a tin and they turn the wheel to bring the feed up.

one of the many beaches around Okanagan Lake, I like how the ski boats are moored around ready for the weekend.

The next day we drove to Log Barn which is a very commercial enterprise but interesting to see with a lot of animal statues positioned around the grounds.  Next stop was the Cheese Factory then drove up and around the hills having great views of the Okanagan Lake.  Stopped at Kekuli Bay which was a striking blue colour before heading back to Vernon and stopping to look at few murals which are scattered around the town.

Clear waters of the Kekuli Bay

Families take their boats out and just swim around

Lots of homes scattered around the lake with decks leading out to the pleasure craft.

Vernon has many wall murals painted on the walls of buildings in town,
After an enjoyable few days drove back to Calgary spending a lovely last night with Briony.  The next day we packed our bags before embarking on a journey to Vancouver via Greyhound Bus for 15 hours!!!

08 July, 2015

Calgary Stampede

The Calgary Stampede is an annual event held in July which started in 1912 as a roping and bronc event with competitors from throughout North America west. During the onset of the first world War and the depression the event was not held, but commenced again in 1919 to celebrate peace and the end of the war. In 1923 the Stampede joined with the Exhibition and also started the tradition of the pancake breakfast, which back in 1923 was offered out the back of Jack Morton chuckwagon to visitors and locals. For Calgary it remains a celebration of the old west and showcases the modern multicultural city it has become.

Bull Busting was the first event we attended. It was held the night prior to the parade and is a heat to the rodeo which runs during Stampede. This rodeo was held at Ranchmans Bar and seemed to be a corporate outside event which we were lucky enough to get some complimentary tickets.

The crowd gathers as the sun sets over the rodeo 

Quite a bit of action throughout the night

All the riders are introduced to the crowd.

Friday morning we were up early to head downtown for the Calgary Stampede Parade. The parade starts at 9am and like so many special events you need to get there early to get a front row, especially for the kiddies, as they expect a crowd of around 200,000 people to attend.

Arrived early to get a good vantage spot for the parade.

Young cowboys and girls waitin for the parade

The parade consisted of 35 floats, 15 music bands and 42 horse entries which equates to 700 horses - that's what the Stampede is about!!

We asked the local police for a family photo before the parade - this is their tough stance.

Start of the parade

Royal Canadian Mounted Police

Wagons and horses


Well presented coach 
Cheerleaders for the local football team.

Chuckwagon racers

First Nation participants 

Local politicians 

Marching bands

Multicultural representation

Performing groups

Even the street sweeper looks like a horse, and cleans up the horse poop as it travels along 

Aero Space Museum 

Ctrain is great for commuting around Calgary and transports the crowd quickly out of town.

Stampede breakfast with more than 200 pancake breakfasts held over 7 days during the Stampede it's a great opportunity to join in with the Stampede spirit, so we managed to attend 2 on separate mornings.

Cowboy cooking pancakes for the Saturday breakfast

Cowgirl cooking spuds organised by local member David Swan

Hungry Aussie eating pancakes 

Lined up waiting for pancakes on Monday breakfast at the local shopping centre

There were 4 tents like this one cooking breakfast

Entertained by the Calgary Roundup Band

Standing room only 

Entertained by country music during breakfast

Saturday was our day to check out the Stampede grounds - we had passed by them a few days earlier in the Ctrain but all we could see was the side shows which looked like many shows in Australia, so we headed off to check out what was on offer.

Ready to take in the Stampede 

Seemed to find our way to the food section

Some real Stampede food - deep fried pickles!

These statues represent the historical and modern-day life story that reflects the spirit of Calgary 

Blacksmith making horseshoes 

Even chuckwagon races for the little cowboys and girls.

GMC are a major sponsor and I liked this display!! 

Even saw this Kiwi at the sheep shearing competition.

Monday night was our last event for the Stampede, the chuck wagon racing and stage show. The chuckwagon racing was quite different and much quicker than I had expected. The horses are thoroughbred and seem to run as fast all harnessed as a normal racehorse.

Opening ceremony 

Racing to the finish line

Racing around the barrels in a figure 8

The idea of the race is that 4 teams run together starting with a barrel being placed in the back of the chuckwagon, they then do a figure 8 around 2 barrels before completing a lap of the track. This takes around 1 min 15 sec.

On the starting line
After the chuck racing we watched a performance by young Canadians dancing and singing telling the story of the history of Canada. The night ended with a great fireworks display.
Fireworks to close the night

The Canadian Classic stage show