Another Picture Goes Up

I hung up the second of my three big pictures today.

This is a print of a wax pastel drawing of Alcatraz Island. I picked it up for a song my first night in San Francisco and discovered many days later that Alcatraz truly is that beautiful.

I hung it over the ‘sofa’ where the useful cabinet used to hang. The cabinet will be relocated to the other wall.

Siren’s Call

I remember staying at a friend’s apartment in San Francisco’s Russian Hill and being unable to sleep because of the fog horns. Tonight is my first foggy night in Campbell River and a fog horn has been going off every few minutes. It’s very loud and it’s irritating the cats, but I’m hardly bothered by it and know it won’t stop me from getting a good night’s sleep.

RVing has really enabled me to block out and even sleep through noises and lights that I never used to be able to before. I’ve stayed in such a variety of locations, from loud and brightly lit Walmarts to pitch black quiet highway turnouts. I find it amazing that I’ve been able to adapt to such a variety of circumstances, but am still unable to become a morning person!

Travels Without Miranda, #2: Alcatraz Island, California

Alcatraz Island is breathtakingly beautiful in a barren and desolate sort of way, architecturally graceful ruins blending in perfectly with scrub grasses, trees, and various flowers. Birds abound and, in fact, most of the island is white with guano. It is a stark, foreboding place, but truly beautiful. Some might think me crazy to find that place so pretty, but it is if you like ruins that blend in so thoroughly with their natural surroundings that you could not possibly imagine one without the other, then Alcatraz is the place for you.

I spent a sunny day touring the ill-famed Rock. Even though it houses one of the most notorious US jails and was the site of native protests, today the island is a peaceful bird sanctuary that belies the supposed horrors that went on between the crumbling walls of the prison.










mint green on the exterior

mint green on the exterior

interior sampling of the mint green and baby pink colour scheme

interior sampling of the mint green and baby pink colour scheme

those marks on the floor are bullet spray from a shooting during a hostage crisis

those marks on the floor are bullet spray from a shooting during a hostage crisis

inmates had a lot of time on their hand (the knitting alone provides an interesting image, but the hot pink yarn is too much)

inmates had a lot of time on their hand (the knitting alone provides an interesting image, but the hot pink yarn is too much)

sample menu

sample menu


The architectural details of the place are striking, showing an aesthetic that belies the purpose of the building. Add the surprising mint green and baby pink colour scheme and Alcatraz does not even remotely look as you would expect it would.

As it turns out, the prison’s reputation was not entirely warranted. I learned there that inmates actually tried to get transferred to Alcatraz as it was a more comfortable prison with some of the best food in the penal system. This is not to say that some of the stories that have come out of Alcatraz are not true; it was a brutal place housing hardened criminals, but there was a softer side to the Rock.

I had expected that I would return from my day on Alcatraz completed drained rather than refreshed, and instead learned that I should never assume anything, a lesson I applied during a humbling visit of the town of Banff.


I’m home. It’s fabulous to have a life now that I feel is worth coming back to.

My flights went smoothly. Air Canada is definitely the only way to fly. They absolutely rock. Just as we were boarding at SFO, I heard my name being paged. The reason was that I was currently seated next to an infant and they wanted to move me as far away from it as possible. Would I mind moving up to the first row behind first class (more leg room and quicker to deplane) and have it all to myself? Then on the Calgary to Ottawa flight someone goofed and I wound up with a free meal which was a step up from tuna and carrots (surprisingly faboo veggie stuffed panini with a side of tortilla chips and salsa).

The last two weeks (okay, thirteen days) are already starting to be a bit of a blur, but I have to say that my favourite thing about the whole trip is something I haven’t mentioned yet and something that is going to sound absolutely inane:

My last name is fairly common there.

Every place I stayed or made a reservation, I got a strange look when I started to spell my name, as if I was telling them how to spell Smith or Jones. Even people whose native language is not English knew exactly how to spell the name. How refreshing!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The best part of coming home was, of course, Tabitha’s reception, followed by coming back to a keyboard with accents. My French correspondents are going to be thrilled. 🙂 And French, of course, I can’t wait to go run a few errands tomorrow, if anything’s open, just to hear my mother tongue again. Running into French people twice in SF and then into a group of quĂ©bĂ©cois in LA.

Speaking of quĂ©bĂ©cois in LA, the best part of the whole traffic jam on Friday was coming onto a station that boasted that it plays every kind of music imaginable and began to list it: hip pop, hard rock, classical, country, rap… on and on and then… “And quĂ©bĂ©cois! ” I couldn’t believe it!

*glances at the clock* It feels like only 21:45 while it’s 00:45. I think the jet lag is going to be pretty brutal since I don’t imagine myself in bed for a couple more hours!

Great trip and I’m thrilled to say in full honesty that, when I tally it all up, the best part was coming home.

Thursday through Saturday

Oookay. It’s as if I’ve lived a million lifetimes since my last post.



Day started at the Hollywood Museum, outside of which I apparently ran straight into Drew Barrymore. At any rate, that was the consensus among the group who happened to see a strikingly familiar looking woman…. Inside, there were three floors of amazing movie props and memorabilia, ranging from Gone With the Wind and Stargate costumes to items from Marilyn Monroe’s home. The museum is housed in the Max Factor building and I saw the ‘green room’ where he found Lucille Ball’s perfect shade of red. I highly recommend this museum to movie buffs.

Then I took a two block walking tour of Hollywood, which was really interesting because we got to go into two places where tourists can’t go alone. The first was a ‘speak easy’, which was a secret drinking room from the prohibition era. The second was the Egyptian theatre, usually only accessible if you have tickets to see a movie there. It has a beautiful ceiling!

Finally, I had a semi-private (group of four) tour of the Kodak Theatre, where the Oscars are hosted every year. This alone made my trip to Hollywood worth it. So, we were wandering around backstage for a minute when the guide said: “Get your speeches ready!” and pointed through some curtains. Next thing I knew, I was on the very spot where the winners give their speeches! Once the awe dropped a little, I gazed out over the familiar theatre and realised just how beautiful it is. I quickly ran through my list of favourite actors who have been busy lately and came up with one name. “Do you know where George Clooney sat last year?” I asked the guide. He grinned and said: “You got one I do know. Right there–” he added, pointing to a seat. “That’s where George Clooney was sitting when he got his Oscar for ‘Syriana’.” As a JOKE I said to him: “Can I go sit in George Clooney’s seat?” and the guide said YES!!!! So, I went down to the first row of seats and perched myself on the edge of the seat, but was told to make myself comfy for a bit and admire George’s view, which I did. 🙂 When we finally moved on, the guide whispered to me: “Go look at a couple of years worth of Oscar footage–Leonardo Dicaprio sat in that seat this year for ‘The Departed’ and Clint Eastwood sat there two years ago for ‘Million Dollar Baby.’ I bet you’ll be watching the telecast next year to see who’s in YOUR seat!” Is that cool or what?! LOL

I’d then had more than my fill of LA and decided that a studio tour or visit of the Griffith Observatory would require more energy than I was willing to put in, so I decided to take off for San Diego so I could visit Tijuana Friday morning.

The drive to San Diego was long because of traffic in both LA and San Diego, but tolerable, and I arrived around 6 at my motel a mere ten minutes from the Mexican border.


Woke up early and took off for the border. Parked, then walked to Mexico (not something I ever thought I’d write!). There are NO border checks whatsoever! I wandered around Tijuana for a couple of hours, picking up a purse and some place mats and visiting the wax museum (surprisingly good), but I got my fill pretty quickly. The city was hot, dirty, and stinky and the cat calls and pleas to come look at junk were getting harder and harder to ignore. But what fun! I got to barter in Spanish (apparently, I paid a reasonable price for my purse considering its low quality), and met a shop keeper who gave me tips on how to not get taken and how to get around Tijuana. He said I had no obligation to buy from his shop, even after I’d picked out the place mats, but I insisted, considering a) how much time he’d spent talking to me and b) how unique and inexpensive the place mats were. He was a welcome respite from the hustle and bustle of the street. I also visited a Mexican supermarket, which had most of the same products as in the US/Canada and a surprisingly good level of hygiene.

The guide books make a big deal about easy it is to get to Tijuana, but there is no mention about how hard and long it is to get back! I stood in line under the harsh Mexican sun (please roll your eyes at that) for almost two hours before I finally got to a border control officer who seemed confused by my Canadian passport and the fact that I was alone:
Him: When did you cross over into Mexico?
Me: This morning.
Him: And you’re alone?
Me: Yes.
Him: What did you buy in Mexico?
Me: A purse and place mats.
Him: *stares at my passport for a minute* Do you live in Mexico?
Me (thinking WTF?!): No…
Him: And. You. Went. To. Mexico. ALONE?
Me: Yes.
Him: Ooookay. Have a nice day.
Geeze, I was going to a very touristy place, not some dark back alley….

The rest of Friday sucked donkeys and doesn’t merit much mention except that it really, really, really, really, really, really, really sucked donkeys to spend seven hours in stop and go traffic from the Mexican border through San Diego and Orange counties and realise that at the rate you’re going, you’ll be lucky to get to San Francisco in a week.

Let me pause here to say that signage for the coast highway is really bad and I wound up on a Navy base. Twice. The first time, the soldier was very friendly, telling me to go to the lights and do a u-turn. Which I did, to find him frowning and waving me over. He didn’t like that I didn’t have a licence plate. That was so not fun, even though my car was legally registered. The US government is SCARY!!! I know I’ll laugh about this. Someday. Maybe The second ‘u-ey’ on a naval base was fine…ish.

At any rate, I had to give up my plans for driving up the coast and wound up taking the five, which is inland, and which added I don’t know how many miles to my trip but saved me perhaps an hour of stop and go traffic through LA, not that that’s saying much since I got a couple of hours of stop and go traffic beyond LA. Let’s just say that I was very tired, very angry, very frustrated, and very exhausted by the time it was dark and I was passing Bakersfield with still a hard five hours to San Francisco when I had hoped to have only an easy two hours left. So, I capitulated and did the smart thing, pulling into a motel that was surprisingly cheap and very nice. The only part of that trip worth remembering was my most memorable Esbat ever, driving down a lonely California highway with the full moon in my rear view mirror.

Let me pause here to say that California is a lot like Ontario, with concentrated urban centres that have very little between them, at least when you go through the centre of the state. It can become frighteningly desolate, especially when you’re going through the mountains and it’s getting dark and you haven’t seen a motel for many miles. I’m glad I had the smarts to stop when I did see one, instead of pushing on a bit longer.

I took off at seven this morning and made it to Neil’s for twelve. I dropped off my luggage then went downtown to return the car, came back here for food and entertainment, then went down to the Wharf just to smell and see the sea one last time.

Thus ends what I think has been the most amazing journey of my life, one that took me out of my comfort and familiar zone completely.

I’ll have lots of time in the next few weeks to put up more pictures for those interested.

If all goes according to scheduling, I will be taxiing in for a landing in Ottawa in precisely 25 hours.