The XXI Winter Olympics have begun in Whistler and Vancouver. The death of luger Nodar Kumaritashvili from Georgia, during a practice run on the first day of competitions last Friday, cast a shadow of sadness and shock on opening day. Athletes and spectators alike honoured his tragic death as the Olympic community struggles to find the right words and actions to sooth the pain and anger.
What started two year ago, when Mary Ellen and I looked into volunteering at the 2010 Vancouver Games has become a reality. I don’t think though either of us imagined the privilege that has come our way to be with such an amazing family of volunteers, helping to create an Olympic experience for athletes and spectators from across the globe, and ourselves, the memory of a lifetime. And the icing on the cake? Living with Tanja and Jamie in their new home in Pemberton, with Lee and Neill a mere 5-minute walk away, making all of this in a dream come true.
They are so many wonderful tales from our road trip, with the best being no harrowing winter driving ones to relate. To say that the weather was co-operative is an understatement, as we dodged several storms along the way and had excellent road conditions for all but a few hundred Ks. Having built several snow days into our itinerary, we were able to travel very leisurely and add 36 hours to our stay in Yellowstone National Park, arguably the highlight of our tourist travels.
Our journey to Whistler began on January 15 with a road trip across the top of the United States. We left Huron Avenue mid-afternoon in a bit of a snow storm, with a full-to-the- rafters van and loaded cargo box, that hopefully had everything we needed for the 3½ months we’d be away from Ottawa. After a false start when the battery needed a boost – took too long to pack with the radio and lights on – the requisite Tim Horton fill-up and a speeding ticket in Deep River [ yes you heard that right] we arrived at the wonderful South Bay Guest House on Lake Ramsay in Sudbury near about nine. The welcome from Brenda and her husband Jose, and the accommodations were the perfect antidote to sooth our minds and bodies. So welcoming that we had a hard time leaving the next morning, even knowing our trip would include a stop at an optician to re-shape my twisted glasses which has decided to sleep with me the evening before.
After leaving Sudbury on a cloudy but dry day, we played cat and mouse with two transport buddies for a couple of hundred kilometres then breezed through customs at Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan before stopping for lunch and a visit to an optician at a downtown shopping centre. He was able to re-shape the frame, but the cracked bridge needed a jeweller’s welding touch. Being Saturday, that would have to wait until Minneapolis a few days later. So careful became the operative word, and my new sunglasses went into service sooner than expected. But it may have been a good omen as the sun come through for the first time that afternoon and took us to Marquette on the shores of Lake Superior. We arrived to a beautiful sunset at the first of our many Ramada Inn stays –a generous travel agent promotion being the attraction as our Inn of choice. It was full of hockey kids and their parents, not unlike any scene across Canada this time of year. We ate dinner in the hotel, and then watched the last few minutes of a Senators win, their third in a row, and the start of their 11-game winning streak. Unfortunately it was the last we would see of the CBC for the next two weeks and hockey faded from view, so didn’t know their luck had changed as we caravanned across the plains, mountains and oceans shore of northern USA .
Oh I almost forgot, we had a couple of passengers with us, who remained loyal, incredibly helpful and fun to be with during 6500 kilometres of travelling – Karen and Lee from Garmin, GPS. We put a lot of faith in their directions and they didn’t let us down, even once. They reminded us of the speed limit, (at least in the US) told us how high or low we were travelling reminded us in time to make freeway turns and recalculated many times when we went off track or the roads had changed slightly from their built in maps.