May 27, 2001

Like a Troubling Bridge Over Water

Day Four: Vancouver, BC back to Tacoma, WA

I can only assume we enjoyed ourselves the previous night in Gas Town (wrongly referred to as Belltown in my prior essay), the supposed hotspot of downtown Vancouver. I have no real way of verifying this, and there's the danger that we were in a tourist trap or that now 5 years later it's the lamest part of town, but ignorance is bliss I suppose. But being tourists, tourists traps are sometimes okay as long as they don't solely consist of tchostke shops and overpriced artery-clogging food stands (See Stone Mountain, GA, or the castle in Carcassonne France for example).

And so, on this slightly overcast Sunday the four of us checked out of the Holiday Inn, grabbed some breakfast and drove through the beautiful Stanley Park up to North Vancouver to some place called Grouse Mountain. One of the attractions there is a gondola ride up the mountain for a sweeping view of the city, the bay, and the distant snow-capped mountains. See? Total touristy stuff. However, once we got there and noticed it would be about $25 Canadian dollars to go up, we all agreed that was a bit too rich for our blood. (Though I am doing much better now in 2006 (not hard relative to my state in 2001), I'd still balk at that price. I'd insist on walking up for free as we've done in New Hampshire and Monte Carlo.)

In lieu of the pricey gondola ride, we drove a mile or two further - oops, I'm sorry - we drove a few kilometers further to the Capilano Suspension Bridge and Park. [Aside: Driving around Vancouver brought with it a strange challenge - blinking green traffic lights. I never quite figured out what they meant while I was there. I'd driven up to and within Montreal a few times before this trip and had never noticed the blinking greens. The mystery continued until just now, when I bothered to Google it. The first hit, the always informative wikipedia gives a ton of fascinating traffic light info, but nothing on the crazy Canadian blinking greens. So I was forced to get my knowledge from the only-slightly-less-reputable "My blog is Poop" blog which finally solved the puzzle for me. I can now sleep that much easier.] Now where was I? Oh yeah, the Capilano Suspension Bridge.

The park was bumping and everyone's faces were awash with smiles and delight. There were the expected gardens and ponds and shops and historical Inuit displays and totem poles and all that good stuff - but all that could wait. We were there to check out the 450 foot pedestrian suspension bridge 230 feet above the rushing waters of Capilano Canyon. We eagerly made our way to the bridge and soaked in the beauty of the park and its environs. Being the gentleman that I am, I let Hoang step onto the skinny bridge first and enjoy the experience before me. I followed right behind and quickly got used to the bouncing and swaying of the bridge. The bridge is totally safe and secure, but it's still a bit disorienting at first - esp when teenagers at the other end start jumping up and down on the thing.

As we slowly made our way to the sagging center of the bridge, I snapped a few shots of the kayakers far below in the icy waters of the river. I marvelled at the beauty of the gorge and inhaled the fresh scent of the fir trees. "Hey, Hoang, let me take your picture! Hoang? HOANG?!" She hadn't stopped with me in the center and was now 20 feet ahead of me, making her way to the other side. I stepped up my pace and caught her attention; "Hoang, let me take your picture out here on this bridge!"

(Still walking) "No."
"Why not? Your hair looks fine and I think it's pretty cool up here."
(Still walking, faster now) "No."
"Huh? Oh come now... Just stop and turn around, you look lovely as ever."
(With the end in sight, practically running) "NO!"

Befuddled, I simply trotted along behind her until we were on terra firma across the river. It took a few seconds for our equilibrium to catch up and quell the swaying feeling in our bodies. One look at Hoang and I knew something was up. "What's wrong," I asked.

"I hated every step of that stupid bridge and I feel sick."

Wow, not exactly the reaction I'd expected. In fact, I turned around to see Quynh and her friend taking pictures and enjoying the unique perspective the bridge afforded. We walked along the trail that led to a cool lookout point and I kept pressing her. After several minutes of my annoying questions, Hoang finally fessed up - she's apparently afraid of heights. I had no idea. But this experience taught me something else about my (then) girlfriend - she's even more afraid to admit supposed weaknesses to me. So, in a way, serves her right... Right? The kicker was that we still had to retrace our steps across the bridge to get back to the other side! We made our way down the trail to the look out and took the following two pictures. See how she masks her fear, queasiness, and hatred? That's my girl.

On the trek back across the gorge, I pleaded one more time to get a cool picture of her or us on the swaying see-through bridge, but Hoang was having none of it. I stopped pestering her and continued across in silence. Once safely across, Hoang was all smiles and eager to explore the rest of the park. There was a large gift shop with all sorts of Inuit decor and knick-knacks - this only fueled our random fixation on the Native people. Not so much, however, to separate us from our money though. We poked around and I'm sure we made fun of some other tourists and then walked around their little nature walk. There was a lovely little koi pond there and some interprative historical signs - yeah, pretty much the only reason to go to the CAPILANO SUSPENSION BRIDGE and park is the CAPILANO SUSPENSION BRIDGE. Well, that and the sad indians. So... so sad.
I skipped out on the last of my nature walks and we returned to our cars and I noticed the semi-view of downtown Vancouver. Who needs the $25 gondola ride when you can get a perfectly good floating head picture from the road to the suspension bridge?

We had the drive back to Seattle ahead of us so after a quick bite to eat somewhere, we gassed up and hit the highway headed South. The traffic was unusually heavy, especially as we approached the US Border. There, the traffic was at a crawl as one might expect on a holiday weekend Sunday. While we were sitting there waiting to inch up 2 more feet, Quynh appeared at our window (yes, in the middle of the stopped highway) to relay some rather amazing news. Apparently, one of their aunts or "sort of aunts" and her family were stuck in the same traffic jam, not 10 cars back. Also, apparently, it was too weird of a place to have a reunion, so we all did our best to avoid eye contact while we made our way to the border. In the end, we escaped unscathed.

Hoang and I returned to Tacoma for another night at Quynh's apartment. The trip was about to begin in earnest early in the AM, so we had to get our sleep. Fortunately I had previously made a call to the Thrifty rental car outlet in Tacoma to see about them picking us up at the apartment. "Doo-doo-dooo! The number you have reached is not in service." Um... What? A couple phone calls later I learned that the Tacoma branch had closed down and we'd have to drive 40 minutes up to SEATAC airport to fetch our ride. This did not make me happy - or Quynh for that matter who would be the one schlepping us up there before work.

But no matter - we were going to Olympic National Park and that made everything A-OK.

On to Day 5

Back to Day 3
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