Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Last Day in the Kootenays

We had a busy last day in the Kootenays. After a hardy breakfast we cranked up the SeaDoos and headed across the lake. It was fun riding along the shore and seeing the cliffs and giant boulders. There were no houses on that side of the lake. When we came to a large stream that emptied into the lake the temperature dropped 20 degrees. The crystal clear stream was runoff from a nearby glacier.

On returning to the house we packed the Jeep with a picnic lunch and headed into the mountains. The logging road followed a mountain stream for a while before turning up the mountain. There were many switchback and hairpin turns as we climbed and passing other cars was difficult on the narrow road. Fortunately, there were very few cars and no logging trucks. The wild flowers were in full bloom and gorgeous. We looked for bears and elk but only caught a glimpse of a few deer. As we neared the summit there was a small flat area with a picnic table. Perfect! The dogs enjoyed the trip up the mountain and had a great time exploring while we ate. After a lunch we headed back down the mountain. It's amazing how much steeper the road looks going down rather than up.

For dinner we drove down to Gray Creek where their friends owned a bed and breakfast with a charming restaurant and 10 cabins on the lake. The sun was just setting behind the mountain as we began dinner on the deck overlooking the lake. Susan had rack of lamb, our friends had the grilled prawn and I had a steak. The wife had baked each individual's bread in a 4" terracotta flower pot. It was unique, beautiful and delicious. It was a pretty amazing operation with the man and his wife as the only employees and they have done this for the last ten years. He was the chef and she was the waitress. He doubles as the handyman and she is also the maid. She gets up every morning and bakes fresh muffins for the guests and leaves the hot muffins hanging on each door. With hot coffee and muffins I might not get up for breakfast. They then cook each guest a full breakfast in the restaurant. Breakfast and dinner are included in the rate and the food is fabulous. They are booked solid and are only are open the 5 summer months so they have the rest of the year to relax. They are quite environmentally conscious and this is a picture of their house with a dirt roof. That is one of their pet goats 'mowing' the roof!

We have had a wonderful time in the Kootenays and hate to leave but it's up early tomorrow to catch the 7:10am ferry. Thanks to our friends for inviting us up!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Nelson, British Columbia, Canada

We awoke to a beautiful clear morning. A perfect day for a 30 minute boat trip to Nelson, a town of about 10,000 located at the end of the west arm of Kootenay Lake. After breakfast we boarded our friends 28' Bennington pontoon deck boat. The boat rode like a dream even when crossing other boat wakes. We were cruising along at 25 mph when a bunch of kids in a ski boat came upon us going full speed at about 40 mph. When they were just about even with us our friend eased his throttle up a little to match their speed. After a few seconds he pushed it full forward and it felt like we were shot out of a gun. The look on the kids faces was priceless! Turns out he had replaced the factory engine with a big block V-8 and added a turbocharger and some racing mods. It topped out at 63mph on the GPS. His neighbors call the boat 'The Flying Bedstead".

When we arrived at Nelson we walked around town and had a great lunch at a cafe overlooking the lake. Nelson is known as a cultural centre. The town has many good restaurants, cafes, coffee houses, shops, art galleries and the restored Capitol Theatre, a hub for the performing arts. Nelson, the "Number One Small Town Arts Community in Canada" is home to a large and diverse artisan community. During the summer art exhibits are held throughout the downtown area with refreshments, musicians and artwork. Nelson also has regular farmer's markets where local artisans can be found selling a unique and diverse variety of fruits, vegetables, arts, crafts and imports. Nelson is a well-known for it's alternative lifestyles. Many American draft dodgers settled in Nelson during the Vietnam War era and became permanent residents. Hemp clothes and cannabis-related products are readily available in local stores.

After lunch I drove the boat back home, arriving just in time for an afternoon nap.

Tomorrow we go on a picnic in the mountains...

Friday, August 14, 2009

Kootenay Lake, British Columbia, Canada

After leaving Coeur d'Alene we enjoyed the scenic 4 hour drive up to Kootenay Lake to spend a few days with our friends. The Corvette got another fun workout with the winding mountain roads.

Kootenay is one of the largest natural lakes in British Columbia, about 100 km in length and varying from 3 to 5 km in wide. The water is crystal clear and over 400' deep at some points. In 1947 the free auto ferry terminal moved from Gray Creek to Kootenay Bay and soon the highway, which was part of the Trans Canada Highway, was paved through to the ferry landing.With the new upgraded highway and with increased traffic along came cabins, restaurants and a gas station and garage. Today, Kootenay Bay continues to offer hospitality to the traveling public, and is home to about 100 people.

After spending a few days in July visiting Dallas, TX and staying with our son in his new house in University Park and then with friends in their beautiful new house on Lake Ray Hubbard we continue with our Grand Tour of Spectacular Homes. This luxurious log style house has a huge great room complete with a giant stone fireplace, bar, two sitting areas, a 70" flat screen TV, a projection TV and regulation pool table. It has 5 bedrooms, 6 baths and a gourmet kitchen plus a full basement. Not bad for a lake house! And did I mention the view? Wow!

Another couple joined us for dinner that night. Our hostess prepared Coquilles St. Jacques and followed up with a beef tenderloin. For dessert we had a homemade brownie with ice cream and fresh berries. We enjoyed a nightcap and headed to bed.

Tomorrow we take the deckboat to Nelson...

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Beautiful Coeur d'Alene, Idaho

After leaving the Spokane airport we motored down Interstate 90 to Coeur d'Alene, Idaho. We had decided to spend the night there after the long flight and to split up the 5 hour drive to Kootnay Lake. After checking in at the Hampton Inn we drove around town. The town is surrounded by forests and mountains and sits in a spectacular setting on the north shore of one of America's most beautiful lakes, Lake Coeur d'Alene. It is no wonder that Coeur d'Alene has been called the "Playground of the Northwest". It seemed like everyone was sailing, boating, skiing or swimming, trying to take advantage of the beautiful summer day. And there are two major ski resorts in the nearby mountains for winter fun.

We had an early dinner at Beverly's on the 7th floor of the huge Coeur d'Alene Resort. As you can see the view was fantastic. We sat at one of the tables by the window and enjoyed watching the boaters come in to the dock and the kids jumping off the 20' rock cliffs into the lake. There were also several double decker boats offering dinner cruises for the tourists.

Although Beverly's is a five star restaurant their food was well above our expectations. The desk clerk at the Hampton had given us a couple of free Beverly drink tickets and while we were enjoying our before dinner drinks the chef sent out a couple of lobster corndogs. They were a small piece of lobster on a stick, dipped in corndog batter and fried just like corndogs at the carnival. Never seen anything like them but the were delicious!

Beverly's has a several thousand bottle floor-to-ceiling wine display with a two million dollar wine inventory, so needless to say we ordered a bottle of our favorite Ken Wright Abbott Claim Vineyard pinot noir for dinner. They had three different vintages on the wine list!

I started out with their Sweet Onion Soup which was the best, richest French Onion Soup I have ever tasted and Susan had the Caesar Salad with shaved Parmesan-Reggiano cheese. For the main course Susan had the rack of lamb and I ordered the Muscovy Duck prepared three ways- Chinese five-spice roasted breast, caramelized leg and seared foie gras on jasmine rice.

We thought we were through but then out came a complimentary dessert. It was absolutely unique. Continuing with the carnival theme they made a hollow tower of cotton candy and inside the tower was a scoop of homemade blueberry ice cream with a birthday candle on it. By then it was dark and the candle flickered through the cotton candy in a charming way. We had to eat our way through the cotton candy to get to the ice cream. Tough job but we did it!

Coeur d'Alene is a fascinating place to visit and Beverly's a delightful dining experience. Highly recommended.

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Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Thank you, Hertz!

After arriving in Spokane, WA we picked up our luggage and headed to the Hertz car rental counter. We had a free upgrade deal so we decided on a Cadillac DTS. The Manager was kind enough to walk us out to our car and along the way we passed this fly yellow Corvette. We both said at the same time, "How about swapping for this car?". And believe it or not, she said "OK". So we get this fun convertible at a great price! And then it hit us. We've got enough luggage to fill up a pickup truck. After much repacking, stuffing things in every nook, filling up behind the seats, putting a suitcase on the console between us and putting the rest under our feet we got it all in somehow. You should have seen the look on the customs officer at the Canadian border! We looked just like the Clampetts.

Driving the crooked roads in the Canadian Rockies is fantastic! The car corners and accelerates like a dream. It almost makes us feel young again. And if anybody from Hertz is reading this, I really didn't go as fast as your GPS says I did.

Seriously, if you ever need a car rental, check out Hertz. There's a reason they are #1.

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