Monday, August 20, 2012

STELLA? STEL-LLLAAA!

If my name were Stella, I’d have jetted to Jamaica.  But that might have been an expensive disaster, considering I don’t have a friend named Whoopi and I can’t be in the sun.  Still, I needed to find a place to get away for a few days in an attempt to get my groove back.

It wasn’t even that lofty a goal.  In truth, I just needed to go somewhere so I’d have an answer when I return to work and people ask, “Did you go anywhere?”  People look at me funny when I say, “Safeway.” 

I am one of the lucky ones with an extended summer vacation—about six weeks in total.  With my five-hour-a-day ferry commute, I had no desire to travel this summer.  I was gleeful every time I looked out my kitchen window and saw another ferry coming or going without me.  Besides, summer is the best time to be in my quiet community.  The jogs, the bike rides, the beach walks, the forest hikes...all with no mud!  (Oh, the rains will return soon enough.)

With work starting up again this week, I began surfing travel destinations when July had the nerve to make what felt like an early exit.  I considered many places.  Los Angeles.  San Francisco.  George Clooney’s Italian villa (Where did I put that invite?).  Portland.  Chicago.  Curacao.  Alas, I do not have the budget for excursions farther afield so I found a deal for three nights in Whistler and booked it.

I am not a fan of travel itineraries.  Instead, I believe vacations should pass without plans.  Wander and stumble into things.  It’s a lovely thought and wonderful things happen in movie versions.  Sing ABBA songs, meet someone on a train, decide to stay in a foreign land indefinitely...visa rules be damned. 

This is my roundabout way of saying I planned a few things.  I booked a tour and did some online research about library hours, rec center times and movie showings.  I also pulled out the current issue of Vancouver magazine which included recommended stops along Highway 99 from Horseshoe Bay to Pemberton (a stretch of road that includes Whistler).

First stop:  Galileo CoffeeCompany, a roadside establishment at blink-and-you-miss-it Britannia Beach.  They roast their own coffee and my latte was decent enough.  Truth:  my taste buds don’t pick up hints of rosemary, pine bark and Corn Flakes like some coffee connoisseurs.  I just like mine strong, not watery and mine was strong enough.  I glimpsed the lovely view of water and mountains, not unlike that which I see from home, and then hit the road again.

On my way into Whistler, I turned off at Function Junction on the outskirts of town for what became a trip highlight.  In a bland commercial business area, I stopped at Purebread, a bakery recommended by Vancouver magazine.  It is rare that I rave about food, but I knew upon stepping in the doorway that the place would be outstanding.  I ordered a fruit scone and a ciabatta loaf and moaned with pleasure as I devoured the scone on the final leg to the hotel. 

After checking in, I did what so many vacationers do:  I hit the library.  Yeah, I know how to have a good time.  I’d set a writing goal for the trip.  I tend to be a writer with ADHD, jumping back and forth from one thing to another.  Ooh, another book idea!  Hey!  That would make a great character!  I told myself no blogging, no internet distractions, no screenplay ideas.  I plopped myself in the library for a chunk of each day and fully outlined a novel idea that I’ve sat on for the past three years.  Mission accomplished!  I now have a clear vision of how I’ll be spending my looming ferry rides.  That alone made it a successful trip.

Of course, I am not at ease if I eat extra food AND forego workouts so fitness was another big part of the trip.  Whistler is better known for its physical activities than for its library.  I thought of canoeing or white water rafting, but opted instead for a tried and true workout.  Being in a place where I knew no one, I risked going to Meadow Park Sports Centre to swim laps at 6 a.m. two mornings.  Yes, I donned my Speedo—a boxer, not briefs style.  The lifeguard didn’t snicker or turn away to keep down her early breakfast croissant.  Despite eight months away from swimming, I managed to complete my basic three-kilometer workout both days.  On my other day in town, I went for an evening jog, zigzagging on a series of trails and somehow managing to find my way back without making the news as the focus of a Search and Rescue mission.  (Considering I have absolutely no sense of direction, my five minutes of unwanted fame will wait another day.)

My one tour was a 2 ½ -hour zipline adventure on my final evening.  There were two options:  the Bear course for beginners and the Eagle route, described as “[p]erfect if you’ve ziplined before or crave an adrenaline rush!”  In truth, I had no business flying with Eagles, but that’s what I signed up for.  A natural worrier, I fretted that I would fail an oral interview prior to the tour and be summarily dismissed from the pack of daredevils.  No middle-aged library goers allowed!  To my relief (?), they took my money, accepted my signed waiver and I was cleared for takeoff.  Having arrived early, I paced outside nearby shops, wondering what I’d gotten myself into and hoping that my four hours of fasting prior to departure would prevent an embarrassing hurl or underwear mishap.  Yeah, a little planning is sometimes essential.

Of course, I felt foolish when we officially convened and the group included a sixty-year-old woman with a bum knew and a woman my age who dressed for a safari and placed her helmet over the wide-brimmed hat that she refused to remove.  If we were eagles, we were the tame sort, raised in captivity, the kind that feasted on hand-fed kibble.  No danger that I’d start thinking about traversing Niagara Falls next summer.

I should tell you the course was insanely treacherous, I lost my voice for two days from screaming and I hurled three times (one less time than everyone else).  Adrenaline rush, indeed!  In truth, while fun and scenic, the adventure was only moderately scarier than my teacup ride at Disneyland.  But I did not know that when I signed up and showed up.  I am keeping those Adventurer bonus points. 

Still, the guides encouraged us to be “a little daring” on the final run.  In my head, I envisioned going upside down and letting go of the cord and dangling my arms over my head.  Usually, there is a huge discrepancy between what I imagine and what I actually do.  On this occasion, however, I followed my vision!  I have no one to back me up—we didn’t exchange email contacts at the end—but I have a clear memory of an exhilarating moment.  I celebrated by stocking up at Purebread—cranberry ginger raisin loaf, flourless chocolate gâteau, buckwheat sour cherry scone—on my way home.    

I didn’t go to Jamaica, I didn’t meet a hunky gay-in-disguise Taye Diggs, but I left Whistler having found a mini groove.  Good enough when you travel on a budget!

2 comments:

Rick Modien said...

RG, Whistler is one of my VERY favorite places to go. I think we're so lucky to live so close to it. Chris and I try to go once a year. We're planning to go again this September.

Thanks for the tip about Purebread. We'll definitely check it out.

Want to know something funny? I LOVE LOVE LOVE the Whistler public library. I remember when it was being built and couldn't wait until it opened. It's wonderful to spend lots of time there, which I usually do while Chris goes on hikes in the area.

Last October, when we went to Whistler, I wrote a number of blog posts there for Coming Out Month at "This Gay Relationship." We always stay at the Delta Whistler Village Suites directly across the street, so it's very convenient to come and go from the library whenever I want to. (Plus, can I say some of the cute men who frequent the library make it worth being there, too.)

Another place I love is Armchair Books, on the village square. I've always wanted to own a small bookstore, and, every time I see AB, I fantasize about buying it and living another life altogether.

Okay, now you have me excited about going again. I can hardly wait.

Congrats on having the courage to do the zipline. You wouldn't catch me dead on that thing.

Thanks for sharing some of the details about your trip. I wondered where you were. I wish I were on my way to Whistler tomorrow. Such fun.

Rural Gay said...

Hi Rick,
Okay, so I guess I can be more outspoken about enjoying my time at the Whistler library. I remember studying in a portable version of the library years ago and the new structure is a major improvement. There is even a fancy coffee machine in the periodicals section.

I tend to drop in at libraries everywhere I go. Despite all the buzz re. ebooks and info technology, I have yet to find an empty library. They are a haven for so many!

Yes, do try Purebread bakery. I'm already thinking of an excuse for another Highway 99 road trip!