Finally, we are on solid ground to stay! I was up at 6:00 AM because the captain told us that we would approach Vancouver at dawn. There was a highway bridge that was supposed to be something to see because it was the lowest bridge the ships are able to go through. Once I saw that, I was not impressed. We drove over this bridge on our way to the airport on Day 11 and the bridge is more impressive from the road! However, the view of the Vancouver skyline was absolutely the best view of any port on our trip. The sun was just beginning to rise over the mountains to the east and was already reflecting off of the Vancouver skyline. I went back and forth taking pictures of the skyline and pictures of the sunrise over the mountain. It was impressive! Then I watched the ship do a 180 and back into the dock. I’d like to see our Captain parallel park in Cincinnati with cars waiting for him to get out of the way!
We disembarked and grabbed a cab to our hotel, which ended up being about a 15 minute walk. We had too many bags to walk because we kept buying t-shirts and hats and shot glasses at all the ports. Before we left home, Alana packed our bags within an inch of their lives! Trying to re-pack the stuff we brought with us would have challenged Daniel the Contortionist (“The Rubber Boy”) to get back in the box after eating from the ship’s buffet for a week. So Alana bought an extra large gym bag to help with the overflow. A day or so later, she decided that the bag needed wheels so she bought a different gym bag! These two bags were critical for us to make it back home with everything, but checking them cost us an extra $50. We better use these damn bags again!
We had tickets to get on a “Hop On/Hop Off” sightseeing trolley. Our plan was to check into the hotel, and then I was going to go for a 16 mile run while Alana took a nap. However, the room wasn’t ready and wouldn’t be ready for a few hours. We checked our bags and went on the trolley. To do this, we had to walk back to the ship and turn in our vouchers for tickets. Let me tell you a dirty little secret about the cruise lines. They sell you “excursions” in such a convenient way that it just makes sense to pre-book your excursions through the ship. They bill the credit card you give them and you just get off the ship and go. At each port, there were multiple kiosks selling the same activities and more! Because we already paid for the trolley, we had to take the trolley instead of the “Fun Bus” parked behind out trolley! This was the start of the Trolley Ride From Hell!!!
We stopped at multiple hotels as we weaved our way through town. The driver was courteous enough to tell us a few interesting things about the tops of the buildings regardless of the fact that we weren’t remotely able to see what the hell he was talking about! There is a building in Vancouver that planted trees, shrubs, etc., on the top of a building. This fascinated our driver but left us unimpressed. We had two stops that seemed to be interesting. One was Granville Island and another was Yorktown. We skipped the first and then I got too hungry so we stopped in Yorktown. This was a beautiful harbor with lots of places to eat. We picked the first place we saw that had decent enough food and beer. The food was better than decent, it was the best hamburger I’d eaten in a very long time! I took note of the servers (I’ll discuss part two of this phenomenon tomorrow) – all very attractive women dressed in tight, black, short dresses. If they had cleavage (and they did), they displayed it proudly. It was like an extremely classy Hooters with one MAJOR exception – the food here was incredible, while Hooters is inedible. It’s like Hooters employees are prostitutes while the Yorktown employees are escorts. They both give you something as long as you have enough money, but one of them makes you too ashamed to tell your friends you went there.
One other thing about the trolleys that we noticed on the short time we were passengers was that every seat was taken. On almost every stop, unless someone got off, the passengers waiting to get back on were out of luck and had to wait for the next trolley that was likely to be full as well. Knowing this, we decided to take a walk along the shore line. We found a water bus that would take us to Granville Island for $7 one-way. That sounded like a good idea at the time, so off we went. If I lived in Vancouver, I would avoid Granville Island even though their Granville Market was a smaller version of our Findlay Market. Great locally owned shops with a fantastic variety of food, but theirs was overrun by tourists! We decided to keep walking to see what else was there and I spotted Granville Brewery. Being a beer aficionado, I had to stop to sample the local brew! Alana sat across from me as I sipped my IPA and she was in obvious pain, as in, “I hate this place, I hate this island, I just want to go back to the hotel,” kind of pain.
After one beer, we figured out how to get the hell off the island and walked to the trolley stop. As expected, the first trolley came up with a full load. Some got off to go to the Island, but there were already double that number in line in front of us! Now I was the one in pain! I began venting my frustrations for all to here, “This is fucking bullshit! How do you run a trolley without enough seats to handle this amount of business?!?” It was then that a guide working for the trolley company told us another bus was coming to pick up the overflow. Just as it was about to arrive, I tried to get Alana to come with me and get a cab. The minute we got out of line, the overflow bus arrived. I can’t repeat everything I said at this point, but it wasn’t pretty! I turned around and got back into a position that was roughly the same as it was before we left the line and we managed to get on this bus. There were still people waiting who were unable to fit on the trolley. Meanwhile, as we waited in line for our god-forsaken trolley, a Fun Bus rolled by with plenty of empty seats! We managed to figure out which stop on this tour got us closest to the hotel and we hopped off. The driver tried to give me their map, saying, “Do you plan to get back on the trolley?” I responded as politely as possible, “We won’t be back on this trolley, thanks.” I’m sure that as he drove away, the passengers who remained shared a laugh about my tirade. At least I hope they did!
Two very good things came about because of this miserable experience. We drove past a Terry Fox memorial, which had a bar/restaurant across the street that was a place I knew I had to go! Terry Fox was a Canadian who had a leg amputated due to cancer. He embarked on a cross-Canada run to raise money and awareness for cancer research. Although the spread of his cancer eventually forced him to end his quest after 143 days and 5,373 kilometres, and ultimately cost him his life, his efforts resulted in a lasting, worldwide legacy. The annual Terry Fox Run, first held in 1981, has grown to involve millions of participants in over 60 countries and is now the world’s largest one-day fundraiser for cancer research; over $500 million has been raised in his name. As a runner who raises pennies, by comparison, for The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, I loved being able to walk back to his memorial and spend a moment reflecting on what he did for cancer research.
Then, I walked across the street to the bar. It took a while, but I struck up a conversation with a young man sitting to my left. My first beer was an IPA, but I decided to experiment and get a darker beer along the lines of a Guinness, only lighter. He started to tell me how darker beers are better for you because of the antioxidants. It was 7:20 at the start of this conversation. I know this because I was hungry and I texted Alana to tell her where I was. She was still in the hotel room sleeping and recovering from the complete lack of sleep you get while on a cruise. I texted her that I was going to get dinner and I’d join her for her dinner when she was ready. I continued talking to this man and found out he was part Cherokee and part some other tribe. He was from Houston, but he moved to Vancouver three months ago. To make a very long story a little shorter, he made me re-think my preconceived viewpoints of life just by asking me questions that forced me to challenge those viewpoints in my own head! I bought him a beer and we talked until 8:30. At this time, I realized that Alana may be ready for dinner by now! My new friend and I exchanged Facebook contact info and now we’re Facebook BFFs.
Do yourself a favor. If you find yourself in public – it doesn’t have to be a bar, but that’s where you’ll find some very interesting people – talk to them. Really talk to them. At home, I don’t go to bars every night. While on vacation, I found myself in many different bars while Alana recuperated from the day’s activities. That person sitting there, either alone or as a couple, has a strong desire to connect with someone. Strike up a conversation and see what happens. Sometimes, the person just wants to be left alone. Other times, you can create magic. Go create magic for someone! Your reward will be 100 times greater than what you just did for the other person. For me, this trip became all about creating magic moments. I’ll have more to say about this soon. For now, I’m dealing with jet lag and I have to get to bed!