Subject: Alaska Dispatch #6 - from Harrisonburg, VA
Greetings -

I'm safely home in Virginia now, but wanted to wrap up the last stretch of this travelogue. Let's see ... I last wrote on Tuesday the 20th. We'd just arrived in Prince Rupert from the ferry. After taking care of email and a latte fix at Java.Cup, it was off to Prince George. The drive went smoothly and was quite scenic, especially the first part through the coastal mountains along the valley of the Skeena. Encountered light rain from time to time, until we reached the outskirts of Prince George, where it poured buckets. By the time we reached the Roof Garden B&B, though, it had stopped. Laura was feeling pretty poorly and went straight to bed. She was taken good care of by our hostess, also named Laura, and the resident feline, Harley. :) After grabbing a quick bite in town (Burger King, nothing exciting) I spent a relaxing evening reading and soaking in the jacuzzi tub.

Wednesday we drove from Prince George to Vancouver. I did all the driving that day, partly because of the sections of curvy road (I tend to get motion sickness if I'm not driving), and partly because Laura still wasn't feeling up to par and it was a good opportunity for her to rest. We enjoyed good weather and scenery, didn't take any "short cuts," planned or unplanned, and so made it to Vancouver by dinner time. Encountered a bit of rush hour traffic in Vancouver, but nothing by Los Angeles standards. :)

Our lodging for the evening was the Thistle Down House in North Vancouver. What a treat! A large, beautiful Arts & Crafts home in a charming neighborhood, yet very easy to get to from the major roads. The design and decor evidenced the owners' love of the place; all three innkeepers - Debbie, Ruth, & Rex - were quite gracious and clearly enjoyed their guests and showing off their masterpiece. They said, "We haven't stopped smiling" since purchasing the place. It showed. The style was classy and elegant yet also very comfortable and relaxed.

After checking in Debbie directed us to a lovely neighborhood downtown area a few blocks away - good to stretch our legs after the long drive. There were several good eating options but we ended up at Kilbey's where we enjoyed an excellent dinner - asparagus and leek soup followed by a salmon burger for Laura; I had pan-seared perch w/ nectarine sauce accompanied by veggies and basmati rice. For dessert I indulged in mascarpone cheesecake - actually a cheese filling layered between sugared pastry crisps and topped with berry compote (blueberries, raspberries & cherries). Outstanding.

Thurday morning's breakfast was a four-course affair. First came bread and coffee (their own excellent blend); second was house granola with a choice of either yogurt or mulled milk (I had the former, Laura the latter); third was local peaches braised in wine with rosemary; lastly came pork tenderloin medallions with a fruity sauce accompanied potato gallette (like a potatoe quiche) and green beans. Laura's stomach wasn't up for the last course, but fortunately mine was.

Unfortunately we didn't have time to stay and visit Vancouver; definitely a place to which I'd like to return, and stay in the Thistle Down House, if possible! Our route out of town gave us a nice little driving tour, though. We were happy to re-enter the US, even though our sojourn in Canada was quite pleasant. Just nice to come back home, I guess. Just south of Portland, OR we left the interstate and cut over to the coast and arrived in Newport, OR around dinner time. Once we'd found the Beach House B&B and checked in, we were off in search of provender. The innkeepers, Nel & Sue, recommended the Arr House, just around the corner. That ended up being another great food find! A tiny mom-n-pop type of place, staffed only by the ownner/waitress and the chef. Boy, was the food good, though. We shared a bowl of the best tomato soup I've ever had, accompanied by homemade bread. Laura had the frittata with asparagus, mushrooms, gouda cheese, and other yummy stuff I can't remember. I had cornmeal-crusted halibut with read rice, asparagus, and pineapple sage chili butter. A bottle of Foris Rogue Valley Pinot Gris was an excellent accompaniment. All the ingredients were local and most organic, even the wine. Everything on the short menu sounded fantastic. We had a hard time choosing, but thoroughly enjoyed our choices. Finished dinner in time to watch the sun set over the ocean.

After an excellent breakfast at the Beach House (veggie omelette, fresh fruit, croissants, coffee, orange juice) we headed south down the coast highway. I love the Oregon coast! It is quite beautiful, and once again we were blessed with lovely weather. As the morning progressed we encountered an interesting situation - over the mountains to our left (east) the sky was sunny and completely cloudless, but to the west the ocean was covered by a low-lying cloud bank. The highway caught the edges of each zone, so sometimes we were almost driving through fog but could still see sun and blue sky to our left. Unusual effect, at least to someone unfamiliar with that part of the country. For lunch we stopped at a rest area on the beach and took the opportunity to stretch our legs with a nice walk in the sand. The beach was lovely, if a bit misty, and all but deserted.

We arrived in Myers Flat, CA, without difficulty. It's in the Humboldt Redwood State Park, so when we drove south to Phillipsville for dinner we took the Avenue of the Giants and enjoyed the beauty of the massive trees. Dinner at the Riverwood Inn was passable - good Mexican fare but somewhat lacking in the areas of service and ambience. And it was dreadfully hot. When the sun was low enough they were able to open the westward windows to a cooling breeze. Big improvement there, but not much to be done about the drunk obnoxious twenty-somethings at the table next to us. Still, that was the only unpleasant dining experience on the whole trip, and even then the food was good.

Grabbed a quick continental breakfast before checking out of the Myers Inn, then it was back on the road. Took Rte. 101 all the way to our destination for the evening, San Luis Obispo. A nice treat on the way was going over the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, which I hadn't done since I was a child. Made good time and probably would've gotten to SLO earlier than expected, except that we ran into traffic delays around the Garlic Festival in Gilroy.

My husband, Ken, had flown to California several days earlier, and he and Dan met us in SLO. The four of us stayed at the Embassy Suites and had a good dinner with a friend, Jeremy. Most of the next day, Sunday, was spent visiting a friend at the CMC (for those of you who know Dan R., he's looking well and enjoyed the visit). By dinner time we were back to Santa Clarita, home for Dan & Laura. Ken and I flew back to Virginia yesterday. Max and Fannie, our cats, were glad to see us. Max is meowing constantly, catching up on all the communication opportunities he's missed in the last few weeks.

It's been a great adventure, and I thank you all for coming along with us in your thoughts. I want to thank Laura, too, who was such a fun and generous traveling companion.

Until the next adventure, Cindy Harrisonburg, VA (for the time being)