Two Days in Washington

The trip has started! We left Vancouver Monday afternoon around 2:30pm. It was a total rush-around, getting the RV packed up and we ended up throwing a load of still-damp clothes into the back of the camper. We just wanted to get on the road. I had a bit of a lump in my throat as we left our apartment. Silly, I know. We’re only gone 3 months, but somehow leaving our home felt like a momentous occasion. Maybe it’s because we’ve been planning this trip (in one way or another) for so many years. Anyways, the traffic down to the border was light, and we were through in less than 20 minutes. We were slightly worried about getting through with a big van – wondering if the border patrol would want to look through the camper, etc.

Any fruit or vegetables? Any alcohol?

Yes, we have 3 bell peppers… and two bottles of beer

The patrol officer smiled at us.

How about I just take the peppers, and we’ll forget about the rest.


And just like that, we were officially heading south! | Jonty filling up DEF into Sprinter van

We made it as far as Bellingham before our first “Warning light” came on. The “Diesel Exhaust Fluid” indicator light came on.


“You only have 16 vehicle starts left before you can’t re-start your vehicle anymore”.

Double awesome.

Jonty topped up the DEF tank and re-started the van.

“You only have 15 vehicle starts left”.

Crap. It’s now past 5pm.

Well, we’ll head down towards Seattle, stop to pick up some groceries, then fill up the DEF tank again. Stopped in at Trader Joes in Lynnwood, WA. Jonty tried filling up the DEF tank some more.

“You only have 14 vehicle starts left”.

What the??! It’s now 8:00pm.

Well, let’s try finding a place to sleep for the night and figure this out tomorrow. We quickly found out that many of the Walmarts in Washington do NOT allow overnight freeloading parking, as we were banking on. But one lovely employee said “Well, unofficially, we don’t allow overnight parking… buuuut… there’s a gravel lot right behind the store where people park all the time. You should be fine there”. She was right.

So we spent our first night in the RV on a gravel pit, sandwiched between multiple big-rig trucks. We celebrated with our un-confiscated beer. It was good. | Road trip beer, first night

The next day, we needed to figure out this DEF situation. Jonty was trying to fill the tank, but was only managing to top up the tank at a rate of about 1/4 cup per 20 minutes. We’re pretty new to RV-ing, but even WE knew this wasn’t right.

“You only have 12 vehicle starts left”.

After some Googling, we ended up emailing Traveland RV to see if we should find a dealer for service. “Yes, yes, you should”. We found a local Mercedes-Benz dealer not too far away and they were able to get us in for service while we ate (a very late!) lunch. Turns out the DEF tank was already full, which was why it was taking such a long time for any additionally-added liquid to go down. At some point in this van’s history, someone let the DEF get critically low before filling the tank. When this happens, the system requires a software re-calibration by a Merc Benz dealer. So now we know!! | Mercedes-Benz dealership, Lynnwood WA

Finally, more than 24 hours later, we were on the road again. The clouds lifted as we passed through Seattle. A good sign, we thought. | Sabattical road trip leaving Seattle WA

We assumed we would be close to Portland on the second day, but the Travel Gods had other plans. As with the night before, we were pushing 8:00pm, tired, hungry, and not in Portland. We phoned another Walmart and, although they did not allow overnight parking, the loop-hole was that the store was open 24 hours, so technically, they wouldn’t know if you were sleeping in your RV or just shopping at the store. When we pulled into the parking lot, it was RV-central! There were campers EVERYWHERE! So no worries about being towed 🙂

So our first “proper” meal in the RV was eaten at 9:30pm, in a Walmart parking lot. It was good. | Avocado spinach egg on Ryvita cracker

We plan on spending a bit of time in Portland tomorrow before heading east, towards Smith Rock for the end of the week.

People, We Are Officially Excited!!

Peeps, the excitement levels in this household are officially through the roof!! Perma-grin is on my face!  We picked up our home-away-from-home this morning. We needed a name for our home, worthy of the adventure we’d be heading on. And really, the decision was pretty easy. May we introduce to you…

Eddie. | Cousin Eddie Christmas vacation RV

“That there’s an RV”! | Cousin Eddie Christmas vacation

It feels like we’ve been talking about getting renting a Sprinter Van for such a long time, and now it’s finally here! We picked up the van this morning on a very, VERY wet day.

“Do you know anything about RV’s?”

“Absolutely nothing!”

So after a 20-minute orientation, we were given the keys and sent on our way. We’re physicists… we’re pretty good at problem-solving and rational thinking… Hopefully we’ll be okay. If all else fails, we do what every normal person does… Google… then call Dad. 🙂 | Picking up the Era Sprinter van

Rock Paper Scissors: Jonty gets first drive! | Era Sprinter van

The van looks much bigger in person.

Here he is, making his maiden voyage into our parking lot. I really don’t sound very excited at all.

The inside has a pretty good layout, and there’s quite a bit of storage space! We’ll probably have to spend some time figuring out the best place for things, but luckily we’ve got time on our side!

February Already?!!

Man, I can’t believe how quickly January has come and gone! Well, actually, I can. Month #2 of the sabbatical has started and that means we only have a few more days until we pick up our RV! This week will be a test of my organizational skills. At the moment, my To-Do list feels quite long, but I’m crossing off a few things every day. We will be definitely be almost ready-ish by Sunday Monday 🙂  Our medical travel insurance is sorted (we’re okay to injure ourselves rock climbing and cycling, but getting attacked by an orca while scuba diving is out), and I just found out that our bikes are completely covered by our home insurance (for theft or “mysterious disappearance”) while we’re travelling. Wahoo!!

Date Day this past weekend was a bit of a last-minute affair. Planning was minimal, but sometimes those simple meals are just what you need! Jonty made Blueberry Parfait again (we need to get our fill before we go 3 months without an oven!!) and I decided to make salmon tacos. I did a quick search for a cabbage slaw, and then just winged it. It was pretty tasty! Add a bit of guacamole and a smear of spicy Sriracha mayo, and dinner was good to go. Such a quick and easy meal! | Salmon cooking for tacos | Coleslaw and guacomole for tacos | Blueberry parfait

Salmon Tacos with Honey-Lime Slaw

  • Servings: 2
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

400 g salmon (skin removed), cut into 1-inch strips
Freshly ground pepper
Lime-infused sea salt

Honey-Lime Slaw
1/2 medium-sized head red cabbage, finely shredded
1.5 tbsp white wine vinegar
1 tsp liquid honey
Zest and juice of 1 lime
Handful of parsley, finely chopped

1 ripe avocado
2 tbsp red onion, thinly sliced
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice, or to taste
Lime-flavoured salt, finely chopped parsley

6 – 8 small corn tortillas, warmed
Sriracha hot sauce


For the Slaw, mix everything together and taste. It should have a nice zing to it. Add more of any of the seasoning to fit your taste. Let it sit in the fridge for at least an hour (longer if you can) to let the vinaigrette soak in.

For the Guac, I just mash everything together and taste, adding a bit more salt or lemon juice until I like the taste.

For the salmon, season both sides with salt and pepper. We have some lime-infused sea salt that went nicely with this meal. Heat a bit of oil in a non-stick frying pan over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the salmon strips to the pan, leaving some room around each one. Let cook for 2 – 3 minutes (until the salmon is cooked almost half-way through). Flip and sear the other side for 1 – 2 minutes more, or until your preferred level of done-ness.

Load up your tacos and liberally douse with hot sauce!!

Foggy Days

One of my personal goals for my sabbatical is to work on improving my photography skills. I want to get into the habit of bringing along my “big girl” camera when I’m out and about. I do love playing around with it, and I thought today would be a good day to start. We’ve had some really foggy west-coast weather the past few days. Sometimes the fog breaks as the sun rises, other times it blankets us for the day.

These were some of the pictures I kind of liked today. I’m still a complete novice when it comes to setting a manual exposure, but I’m working on it! | Foggy morning walk in Kerrisdale, Vancouver BC | Foggy morning walk in Kerrisdale, Vancouver | Foggy morning walk in Kerrisdale, Vancouver | Frost on | Foggy morning walk in Kerrisdale, Vancouver | Foggy morning over downtown, Vancouver | Foggy morning over downtown, Vancouver | Jericho Sailing Club, Vancouver | Foggy morning at Jericho Sailing Club, Vancouver BC

And I Thought Dallas Would Be Warm… | Frost on grass

Yes, the grass has a coating of icicles!

Well, I’ve got one week of sabbatical under my belt, and I spent it in the frosty metropolis of Dallas, Texas! That’s right, I almost froze my soft, west-coast butt off in the southern USA! The temps were below zero for most of the visit, and the wind blowing through the city brought back memories of my eye-watering prairie youth 🙂

SO! I spent a week at the UT Southwestern Medical Centre learning all about this machine. Our cancer centre foundation has raised $6.5 million in donations to purchase this highly specialized treatment machine. It will be a busy time getting this unit up and running! The machine looks like a very big CT scanner or like the hubby said, “a big Polo mint!” (… a Lifesaver candy, for those non-British people…). The main feature of this treatment unit is that it can track a tumour moving in the body. Let’s say a patient is breathing (crazy, hey?). Maybe that person has a tumour in their lung, so the tumour moves while they are breathing. This machine will be able to follow the tumour around as the patient is breathing in and out, and only deliver radiation to the tumour, and not the healthy tissue surrounding it. Cool. | Vero Linear AcceleratorThe gracious physicists, radiation therapists and Vero engineers spent the week showing me around this unit and humouring me with the many (MANY) questions I had. It was a really good visit, and I’ll hopefully be able to remember all the info I learned once I get back to work in July!

My home for the week was this lovely (super cheap!!) place. The room was large, the bed was comfy, and the sunset views were pretty great! They even brought me in a fridge and microwave when I asked if any rooms had these. | Frost on | Red sky sunrise, Dallas TXI’m used to walking (or cycling) a lot in Vancouver and tried to do the same in Dallas. It was about 2 km from the hotel to the cancer centre. Everybody down there thought I was crazy for walking. The area was slightly dodgy, but I stayed on the 6-lane-highway main road and enjoyed the local scenery. | Rusty Taco, Dallas TXI’m not quite sure what I thought of Dallas. I suppose the more time you spend in a city, the more you get to know which neighbourhoods you prefer to hang out in. The neighbourhood around the medical centre was slightly dodgy, but then you’d turn a corner and end up in one of the most expensive areas of Dallas, with houses that rival the size of those in West Vancouver.

The only time I really got to wander around was Friday afternoon, the day before I left. I spent some time in downtown Dallas. As you can see, it was crazy-busy! | Downtown buildings, Dallas | Downtown buildings, Dallas | Downtown buildings, Dallas TX | Downtown, Dallas TX

I’ll take an “S”, Vanna! | Downtown buildings, Dallas TX

The downtown was a mix of glass skyscrapers and old brick architecture.

Maybe the downtown core is busier on the weekend? Or maybe it’s just full of executive offices? Not sure, but it was pretty quiet. One of the physicists recommended visiting the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealy Plaza. JFK was allegedly assassinated from a sixth floor window of this building. The self-guided audio tour took me about an hour, but I’m sure that JFK history (conspiracy theory) buffs could have spent much longer in there. It was quite interesting! | JFK Memorial Building, Dallas TX

The sixth-floor window, on the right side of the building, was where police thought the assassin was sat waiting. | JFK Memorial Building, Dallas TX

When JFK was killed, the car he was in was roughly where the red vehicle is.

And just like that, the week was over and I was on my way back home. Next up, a little trip back home to visit the family, then off on the BIG trip! Time to start planning our RV route!! | Looking out of airplane window on tarmac