Archive for category Road Trip



As I said in my last post, we returned from England to Calgary right in the middle of Stampede. The Calgary Stampede is the largest rodeo in the world and the whole city goes all out.  There was a cowboy band at the airport that serenaded us as we waited at the luggage carousel.  All the bus drivers wear cowboy hats. Hay bales are basically everywhere downtown. And “business casual” suddenly becomes plaid shirts, jeans, belt buckles, and cowboy boots.

Since E was born around Stampede time last year, I didn’t get to go, so this year we were determined to make it happy. The free family day was the day after we arrived, and we had to get there before 9am or something in order to get in for free. We thought this might be a crazy idea because we might be jetlagging and unsettled, but it actually worked out alright.

We got to watch a few races, some acrobatics, but mostly we looked at the animals in the expo center.  E was intimidated by the horses and cows, but the races and the chicks were a big hit.

But this first day back in Calgary was also the first day of our next wild ride. We had one week to finish packing, selling as much of our stuff as we could, and moving out of the city.  We stayed in Penticton for one week before catching a plane to our new home in Tucson, Arizona.

Our stay in Penticton was a lovely time with lots of visiting parents, grandparents, and friends, paddle boarding, swimming, and some much-needed relaxation. M has all the pictures from that trip on his phone, which brings me to a question: how do you store your photos? I’m trying to navigate the best way to get photos from my camera, my phone, and my husband’s phone all in one place. If you have advice, do tell.






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Lake O’Hara – Part 2


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(Click here to read Lake O’Hara – Part 1)

We snapped a few dusky photos at the lake and headed back to the cabin. We lugged along a tripod to catch some night sky shots, but we were both so tired by dark that we decided just to stay in.

By the time we made it back to the cabin, we could smell everyone else’s dinners. Kate and Lara had some amazing smelling curry, and they were kind enough to share some yams with us, a nice side dish for our pasta with tuna. The cabin was fully equipped with pots, pans, dishes, silverware, and a propane stove. There was a constant cycling of melting snow being boiled for consumption, and an outhouse next door.



I was excited to finally have a night of uninterrupted sleep, being away from my baby who still wakes every 2 hours. It wasn’t exactly what I hoped for though. The late night scotch binge kept a lot of our cabin companions making trips to the outhouse during the night and I heard every single one of them. Ah well. At least we both felt pretty well rested in the morning.


We left the cabin just before dawn. The mountains seemed to glow against the twilight sky with the full moon shining on them. The pictures really don’t do it justice. It was just magic.

I realize now that we really didn’t take many pictures of the cabin’s surroundings during the daylight. We were so intent on our rescue mission that I really didn’t spend much time with the camera. These pre-dawn photos are cool, but it seemed like a totally different place during the day.












We didn’t take too much time to linger on the way down because M had to be back to Calgary, showered, dressed, and ready for a 3-Minute Thesis competition. But that’s a story for another day.

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Lake O’Hara – Part 1






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Just past Lake Louise and into Yoho National Park, there’s a small road that reaches 12 km up from the Trans-Canada Highway to Lake O’Hara. After we kissed the baby goodbye, we headed for the mountains, reaching the trailhead around noon. The day was perfect for a hike. The sun was warm, there was fresh snow and partly cloudy skies. Every step of the trek had a spectacular view of mountains and tall trees.





We were the only snowshoers on the road that day. Everyone else took cross-country skis, which makes for a faster trip, especially on the way down. I think it took us about 5 hours up and 4 down. Some said they could ski out in only 90 minutes. About half-way through the hike we encountered these vagabonds:



Kate and Lara are true mountain girls. They are no strangers to the outdoors. But they definitely got more than they bargained for. They were each pulling a child in a Chariot behind. Tinder was 8 months  old–just 5 days older than E–and Layla was 2, and a whopping 34 pounds. That’s quite a lot of weight to pull. Including diaper changes and nursing breaks, they took 10 hours to do what we did in 5. Every time I wanted to take a break I would just think about them. They were working so much harder than me.


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There were some steep stretches toward the end of the hike, but the worst part was the last 500 meters or so. It was a very narrow passage with steep drop-offs in a couple places, and the terrain was very up-and-down. As we were going through we could see the tracks of one skier who actually took off his/her skis to walk through the worst part, and then returned to skiing after 100-200 meters. Of course the only thing we could think of was how on earth a Chariot would make it through here (Okay truthfully, it wasn’t the only thing I was thinking about. I was also wondering when I could take off my pack. It was heavy and this was my first time backpacking).




Past that narrow neck, the trail opens up into a clearing. We could see the puff of the chimney off to the left, which was encouraging for sure, but we had to just stop in our tracks and look up.  An amazing panorama of jagged mountains surrounding us on all sides. It felt as though we were walking through an optical illusion. The toothy mountains seemed distant and close at the same time. It was at that point when M said this might be his favorite hike in the Rockies. Really, I said? Even better than the Valley of the 6 Glaciers? Yes. We’ll still do that hike this summer though.

image After drinking in the scenery for a few minutes, we dropped our packs at the cabin.  There are two cabins, actually. One has about 8 beds, the other has 12 beds and a kitchen. In the main cabin, there was a crowd–one couple from Saskatchewan who does this hike every winter, and who skied in that morning. Then there were about 7 or 8 men from Alberta who seemed to have been there for quite a few days. They were playing cribbage and eating oysters with goat cheese.  We made it a quick pit stop, and were on the trail again very soon. We wanted to go back and help Lara and Kate with the kids.


They were nearly 2 kilometers away from the cabin when we found them, and ready for a break. M and I both took a turn pulling the Chariots for a while (that’s me, above in the purple). When the trail got narrow, each Chariot had one pushing and one pulling to steer through. Kate was impatient and frustrated though, and maybe she had too much faith in me steering behind her. Timber wasn’t buckled in properly and the Chariot lost its footing when Kate aggressively tried pulling through (Seriously, I don’t know how she still had so much energy). We recovered quickly, but I think it was that incident that started a lot of swearing. From Kate, not me. She apologized later.

The crew was already stoking a fire in the small cabin for the two moms. Once we escorted them to the door, we were off again, finally to see the lake.

To be continued…


Were you listening?

imageClick here to hear my favorite part of General Conference.

Also, I promise to get pictures up this week of our snowshoeing/backpacking retreat. It’s already been 3 weeks since we went, and it’s been on my to-do list ever since! But here’s a little preview of what’s coming.

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We have mixed feelings about moving to Arizona, you know. On one hand we’re excited to be close to some family and friends there. We’re excited about pleasant weather for so much of the year.  We’re excited to escape head wounds from slipping on the ice. We’re excited to escape days like we’ve had the past 2 weeks, where it’s so cold you don’t go outside with a baby for fear of frostbite.

But on the other hand, there are days in Tucson where it’s so hot you don’t go outside for fear of heatstroke.

You win some, you lose some.

But at least we’re not moving to Edmonton!

M has been doing some research with a professor at the University of Alberta, and he had to drive up to visit for the beginning of an experiment. We decided to make a family trip out of the occasion. It was very cold. To be fair, it was really about the same temperature as Calgary that day, but Edmonton certainly wasn’t trying hard to win me over.

E and I spent the majority of the day at the West Edmonton Mall while M was at the University (the other UofA). I’m not really into mall-walking (although I have learned it is a favorite pass-time of Canadian mums in the winter time) but I couldn’t just live this close to the largest mall in North America without paying a visit. We mostly looked at the attractions and bought some chips and salsa at the Asian grocery store inside. Yes, really. E liked the roller coasters best, though the skating rink was a big hit as well.

We stayed with some dear friends of ours–another Canadian-American couple that used to live in Calgary.   It was lovely to see them and E made a new friend who is 1 pound heavier than her, but only half her age! They call him “Big Ben.”

And seriously, we’ll probably be pining for those occasional -40 (-40F) day when it’s +40 (104F) in Tucson.


Christmas, part 2: Penticton

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After the first leg of our trip, we headed north to Penticton, a 10-hour drive. Once again, E was a pro at being in the car for so long, and we made it all in one day. We did download an audiobook to keep us awake on the drive: books 1 and 2 of The Hunger Games. It turned out to be an excellent choice for driving. In fact, it continued to keep us up for a few nights after we got home so we could finish it (Just one more chapter. Okay one more. Another? Okay one more!...).

One of the highlights for sure was New Year’s Eve with Grandpa Wardrop. E and I went to bed around 9:30. Grandpa and M called it quits at 11:45. It was a serious party! Of course we also went snowshoeing.

I love how all of the pictures feature E and mommy and daddy aren’t pictured once. She was definitely popular!

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Christmas, Part 1: Boise

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First Christmas from Xivonne on Vimeo.

The idea was totally crazy. Calgary to Boise to Penticton to Calgary in two weeks. That’s 32 hours of driving with a baby, which really means like 48+  hours on the road if you count the stops. That is so much driving. But we all did well and we actually had a good time in the car. It was nice to introduce E to some aunts and uncles she had never met before and of course it was nice to spend some time with our family. Since we don’t know where we’ll be next year, we wanted to do as much visiting as we can while we are within a reasonable distance.

The highlight from Boise, in my opinion, was probably the church walk and carol sing-along on Boxing Day.  A lot of the old churches downtown were open for viewing with organists playing. Afterward there was a big crowd at St. John’s cathedral to sing Christmas carols. It was the best combination of community, music, architecture and Christmas.