Tag Archives: rhododendrons

Our Excellent Adventure

You know how some people have epic adventures cycling through Peru at nosebleed-inducing altitudes, hanging off mountain peaks, or braving primitive conditions in countries most people have never even heard of?  (Sue Slaght, I’m looking at you.)

That’s not us.  Although I love reading about Sue and Dave’s escapades from the safety and comfort of my armchair, Hubby and I prefer our adventures closer to home and with less potential for personal injury.

You’d think that would make for comfortably predictable trips; but sadly, that’s not the case.  I’ve been marooned on an island, robbed twice, and lost in the wilderness with shotgun-toting locals closing in; and that’s all within the province of British Columbia.  I won’t even get into our hotel disasters involving hookers, cows, rappelling nudists, and sticky dick prints.

Granted, none of the above episodes were as dangerous as they sound.  The island stranding was just a mistimed ferry launch (although I still blame Hubby, since he was the one who drove onto the ferry without me).  The robberies were from our vehicle; so despite the annoyance of losing tools, an expensive camera, and a dozen bottles of wine (that really hurt), there was no personal risk involved.

The lost-in-the-wilderness experience wasn’t overtly life-threatening either, although there were some tense moments:

According to our explorer’s map, there’s a teeny-tiny back road between the Okanagan Valley and Kelowna.  So we tried it.  (And Hubby still blames me for our failure, since I was navigating and we ended up on the wrong mountain.  A good marriage is all about give and take:  Give blame and take credit.)


We drove… and drove.  The road got steeper and narrower and gradually degenerated from gravel to  largish rocks.  Tall trees crowded us on both sides.

We drove some more.  Slowly; since it seemed like a good idea to keep the wheels attached to the vehicle.

A half-ton roared up behind us and dogged our bumper, so we pulled over in a slightly wider part of the road to let him pass.  He gave us a hostile glare as he went by, and we both swallowed hard at the sight of the shotgun hanging in his back window.

Then we realized that the road was widening at semi-regular intervals, allowing access to clearings displaying strikingly, um… verdant… foliage.  That’s when we abandoned the attempt and retraced our route to the main highway, having no desire to get shot by some nutjob guarding his marijuana plantation.

So you can imagine our trepidation this weekend when we decided to search out Rhododendron Lake, a tiny body of water that boasts a rare stand of wild rhododendrons (R. macrophyllum).  The only access is by private logging road; and you’re only allowed in on the few days when the logging company isn’t blasting.  I was really hoping I’d gotten the navigation right this time.

Fortunately I did.  Despite a rough road that brought back worrisome memories, our trip was free from firearms, explosives, or questionable flora.  The lake was a placid silvery pool, and although we met people coming and going on the short hike, we had the whole lake to ourselves while we were there.  And the rhodos were in full bloom – spectacular!

And best of all, we were home in time for dinner.  Now that’s my kind of adventure!

Rhododendrons growing wild in the woods.


It’s hard to believe they’re wild!


More rhodos all through the woods.


Rhododendron Lake


Rhododendron Lake is only about 10 km off the main highway between Parksville and Nanaimo; but it’s a slow drive on a rough road. (Click on map to enlarge.)

P.S. Book 13,  “Once Burned, Twice Spy” has finally made it safely through the release process and is available from all retailers, hooray!  I’ll be starting Book 14 soon, so stay tuned to the Books page for progress reports.  🙂


Filed under Humour, Life

I’m A Rock Star!

Don’t worry; it’s safe to stick around – I promise not to sing.  I wouldn’t do that to you.  Hell, I wouldn’t do that to my worst enemy.

No; my rock-stardom isn’t related to music (for which we can all be thankful).  It’s related to… well… rocks.

Our new home site is basically a gravel pit, which is good for a house foundation but not so good for gardening nuts like us.  The rocks are so plentiful and so interlocked that you can’t even dig into the “soil” here with a shovel – you have to bash it apart with a pickaxe or hoe.


You can dig it up with power tools, woohoo!

My latest toy (rented, sadly – it’s a little too pricey to own).

Playing with an excavator is a blast for a gearhead and toolaholic like me, but my excavating services won’t be in demand anytime soon.  After the first hour, I could make the machine do what I wanted about 90% of the time… if I worked with intense concentration and at the pace of a crippled snail.

The secret to not causing major damage with an excavator is:  If anything goes wrong, TAKE BOTH HANDS OFF THE CONTROLS.  (That stops everything from moving.)  But I’ve spent far too many years operating tools and vehicles where you NEVER take both hands off the controls.

So when things went awry on the excavator I usually remembered to let go with my right hand; but my left hand clung stubbornly to the joystick, causing some amusing and occasionally alarming gyrations.  But hey, I didn’t wreck anything – I only knocked over one little aluminium garden stake; pshaw.  And I did get the grade the way I wanted it.

One of our projects was contouring the rhododendron garden before I started hand-placing rocks and wheelbarrowing soil:

About half done. Only a few more tons of rock and soil to go…

The paper sunshades are to ensure that our poor little rhodos don’t fry in the 33C/90F weather we’ve had lately. The wheelbarrow and pickaxe and hoe and shovel are to ensure that I sweat enough to look as though somebody dumped a bucket of water over my head before rolling me in gravel dust.

A couple of days ago I dragged my filthy-but-triumphant self into the coolness of the house and announced to Hubby, “I’m totally rockin’ that garden!  I am a rock star!”

He chuckled.  “Do you want help?”

“No, thanks.  I have a system.  I load up some rocks, wheelbarrow some soil, then go and get my rocks…”  I paused, grinning at his widening smirk.  “…off.”

Which, of course, was a nod to my favourite rock stars from long ago, Dr. Hook.  Even clowning around (or maybe especially clowning around), those guys were amazing musicians.  A few decades later, Dennis Locorriere (the guitarist and usual lead singer) is better than ever.  Sadly, Billy Francis (the singer for this song and, um… ‘exotic’ dancer) went to the big jam session in the sky in 2010, but the scenery was mighty fine back in 1975 when this video was recorded!  (Relaxed-fit jeans must have been a male designer’s idea.) 😉

So… this week I’ll be rockin’ to ‘Get My Rocks Off’ while I rock my garden.

Rock on!


Filed under Humour, Life