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Making-Tracks

What could possibly go wrong? Outdoor recreation misadventures

Holiday hiccups

Anyone who likes to travel and has been anywhere knows that "(Stuff) happens!"

When Mother Nature throws a curveball—and she will—the Sheriff has found the easiest response is to laugh and get on with his day. Of course, the much-used expression is, “hope for the best and prepare for the worst.”

After Constant Companion Carmen (CCC) meticulously planned every aspect of this major trip, the “hope” part had the Sheriff asking once again, what could possibly go wrong?

The answer came after a long, long, long Air Canada flight from Kelowna to Montreal and then on to Paris, where both caught head colds from a French virus. Sore throats and drippy noses seem to go on forever, leading to a different meaning for the romantic phrase, “We'll always have Paris."

On their first real vacation day, the plan was to take the subway to the Louvre. In journalist shorthand, here's how things went a little wrong.

CCC's Metro ticket didn't work. Alerted the sales clerk. Obtained new ticket. Got on the wrong train. Reversed direction. Arrived at Louvre. Closed on Tuesdays.

Three quick Metro trains to Eiffel Tower? No, let's fast urban hike for a long hour. Stood in line for tower tickets. Notice board: "Due to a technical incident, top closed." Wait in line for an hour, long enough for top to re-open. Exercise-hungry CCC decided to stair climb to the second level. Sheriff took the elevator to the top. CCC decided to enjoy the second level with the crucial direction: "I'll meet you at the exit."

Sheriff enjoyed the view at the top. Took photos. Went back to the second level. Took more photos. Went back to the exit where they entered. No CCC. Checked the two other exits. No CCC. Did she go for coffee? Waited an hour where they entered. No CCC.

CCC thought she was abandoned. Walked two hours along the Seine to hotel. No Sheriff. Two big toes hurt and iPhone dead. Charged iPhone. Sheriff took 15-minute subway ride back to hotel. CCC about to leave to continue search. Sheriff joked: "What could possibly go wrong?" Had to laugh. CCC not amused.

On to Blois. Pouring rain on arrival. Uh-oh! Skies cleared next morning. Macs Adventure provided turn-by-turn route instructions for CCC's iPhone. Can't read them when pedalling her e-bike. Stop. Read. Go. Repeat. Repeat.

On to Amboise. Sheriff's e-bike died half-way. No speedometer. No odometer. Power kept shutting off. CCC, the strongest cyclist, pedalled 20K to Amboise. Macs dropped off another e-bike.

Discovered Macs' iPhone route map was better than written instructions. Just follow the moving blue dot. Map view took a lot of power. iPhone died…again. Locals were asked: "Which way to Amboise?" Repeat.

Finally in Amboise. Took sweaty clothes to coin laundromat. No power in the only empty dryer. It said "Occupied." Wet clothes spread all over best hotel room yet. Room became very humid. Laugh.

On to Chenonceau. CCC: "Let's take this side trail rather than the busy highway." Trail was bumpy and covered with stones. Trail became very bumpy. Trail became very narrow. It must be a French forest service road. Sheriff looked around... nervously: "Is this hunting season?" Emerged from forest. Man walking across pasture, gun slung over his shoulder. Pedalled faster.

Great tour at Chenonceau chateau. Returned to locked e-bikes. Bike lock key missing from Sheriff's pocket. Searched path all the way back to chateau. Key at lost-and-found. Laugh. CCC still not amused. She kept key.

On to Azay le Rideau. Three locals provided incorrect location for hotel. Tourist pointed it out. Taxi arranged for ride to train station next morning. Schedule listed 9 a.m. train to Paris. No taxi next morning. Walked two kilometres to train station. Broken sidewalk. No sidewalk. Walked on road dragging carry-on luggage. No train despite lineup. Bus arrived. Paris? Get in. No charge to Tours.

At Tours' station, train ticket to Paris? Three credit cards, no ticket. Station employee bought tickets with fourth card. Boarded the only 9:58 a.m. Paris-bound train in station. Train left. Ticket checker checked ticket. Shook his head. Wrong train. But it was the express train to Paris!

Smooth flight to Barcelona. CCC wanted tour of Antoni Gaudi's Park Guell. Took Metro to the nearest station. Street stairway up. Another stairway up. Repeat. Repeat. Arrived hot, sweaty at park gate. Sign said: “Sold out.” Ordered tickets online for next day. Found new route to park with three street escalators. Whew! Laugh. CCC amused.

CCC bought online tickets for Gaudi's Sagrada Familia basilica. More stairs up the biggest tower. Make it three Gaudis at Gaudi Apartments. More stairs. Sheriff not amused.

Finally found reasonably-priced restaurant filled with locals who all knew each other and restaurant staff. No one spoke English. Sheriff told jokes using only his hands. CCC amused. Saw same locals the next day. More jokes using hands.

Sheriff hit (glancing blow) by a passing vehicle. Who knew some intersections have four sets of “walk" lights (two for the two (two-lane) traffic lanes? And one each for bike lanes on both sides). All don’t turn green at the same time? Then one does. Stop lights only a suggestion for bikes and many pedestrians.

Discovered CCC left baseball cap, favourite jacket and pants at Paris hotel. Fortunately, Barcelona was warmer than usual.

Lisbon had one final laugh for us.

Metro subway train broke down half-way to the airport. Doors opened/closed with nine loud beeps dozens of times. Locals shook heads. Leave train, which left us. Wait for next train. Expect the unexpected? We left hotel early, early, early and got to the airport with lots of time. One last laugh.

This is the second part of a two-part series on outdoor recreation in Europe, following a 26-day holiday that featured lots of outdoor (and indoor) activities. Part one on the magical highlights is posted at: castanet.net/news/Making-Tracks/

Next week: One more funny trip story, and the launch of a multi-part series on what is new and different at the 12 downhill ski resorts and cross-country ski areas in the Southern Interior.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.



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About the Author

J.P. Squire arrived in the Okanagan Valley from flatland Chatham, Ont. in the middle of the night in the spring of 1980. Waking up in the Highway 97 motel, he looked across the then-four-lane roadway at Mount Baldy and commented: "Oh my God, there's mountains." Driving into downtown Kelowna, he exclaimed: "Oh my God, there's a lake."

The rest is history. After less than a month in Kelowna, he concluded: "I'm going to live here for a long time." And he did.

Within weeks and months, he was hiking local hillsides, playing rec hockey at Memorial Arena and downhill skiing at Big White Ski Resort. After purchasing a hobby farm in the Glenmore Valley in 1986, he bought the first of many Tennessee Walking Horses. After meeting Constant Companion Carmen in 1999, he bought two touring kayaks and they began exploring Interior lakes and B.C.'s coast.

The outdoor recreation column began with downhill ski coverage every winter as the Ski Sheriff but soon progressed to a year-round column as the Hiking, Biking, Kayaking and Horseback Riding Sheriff.

His extensive list of contacts in Okanagan outdoor recreation clubs, organizations and groups means a constant flow of emails about upcoming events and activities which will be posted on Castanet every Sunday.

You can email the Sheriff at: [email protected].



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The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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