The Cactus Patch
Volume 11       December 2008      Number 12

To The Pacific and Bakersfield
A Letter From Bruce
by Bruce Hargreaves

On October 2nd we went to Fresno and heard Maynard’s talk on the taxonomy of succulents. Both going and coming back (next day) we stopped at Hanford and hit junk stores. For lunch we went to the Old Hanford Cantina and were entertained by a player piano with drums etc. Across the street we went to the museum which is in the old library building built by Andrew Carnegie. One of the exhibits had an old pharmacy and a booklet opened to Kava Kava which it recommended for treating gonorrhea.

On the 4th we went to see Shakespeare’s 12th Night at BC. It was a chilly night for the outdoor theater and they had lights glaring at us in the audience. The lead actor was great, but many of the others couldn’t project and were hard to hear. (In my youth I was in many plays there, so I can be hypercritical.)

On the 7th we went to Maricopa to check out a quilt shop and look for pickle weed (both a bit disappointing.)

The 11th was, of course, the BCSS show and sale. The sale was especially good this year. We began to wonder if their would be plants left for the Sunday sale. I bought a Birghamia insignins, an unusual succulent from the sea cliffs of the island of Kauai in the Hawaiian chain. It has lovely cream flowers and is related to lobelias. (The giant lobelias in Africa are also succulent.) To top the show and sale, the talk on Brazil by Woody Minnich on the 14th was great.

On the 15th we saw the last presidential debate on the big screen at the Fox. On the 17th we picked up bargains at the Beale Library book sale and then went to the SW Library for a talk by Rick Wartzman on his book Indecent in the Extreme about the banning of Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath.

Anne went to Las Vegas on the 19th, returning on the 25th. She reports the botanic garden there was disappointing -- just a lot of golden barrels.

And Finally -- the finish of last year:

On the 19th we left Winnipeg on the last leg of our train trip. Since it would be two nights, we splurged and paid the extra $100 for berths (A bargain since it included meals and snacks.) The first evening we had a sing along with the waiter Dennis while he served champagne in the Dome Car and then watched “Flags of Our Fathers”. The next day we had fantastic views of the Rockies and passed through a tunnel into Jasper National Park. While we waited at Jasper they ran a washer over the Dome Car with us in it. We also saw a bear -- or at least his feet. He hid behind a freight car.

On the 21st we passed huge trees and a waterfall right next to the tracks. We then pulled into Vancouver and ended one of the most fantastic train rides ever. We took a bus out to the University of British Columbia where we were given separate rooms. After lunch in the Student Union we walked to the Botanic Garden. The garden on the entrance side had a lot of oriental material, but then we walked under the road in a tunnel and found the best stuff on the other side. Above a grass maze with a minotaur there is a hill which contains the best Alpine garden I’ve seen. Starting at the bottom was an African section with Ranunculus baurii, a succulent buttercup which I had seen in Lesotho. On top were a lot of American plants including Opuntia humifusa and O. fragilis which grow in Canada. The largest group were the sedums. They also had a few euphorbias.

That evening the anthropology museum was free so we had a tour of totem poles etc. ending with a monumental modern sculpture of “Raven and the First Humans” by Bill Reid. It is in yellow cedar whereas the traditional totem poles are red. The highlight for us, however, was a visiting exhibit “Gule Wankulu and AIDS” from Malawi. The “Great Dance” is a traditional secret society production (I have a couple of masks for it) and it is now being used to promote anti-AIDS programs. I bought the accompanying book “The Elephant has Four Hearts” by Hector MacDonald which has fantastic pictures of the Gule Wankulu.

On the 22nd we went back into the city and saw “African Adventure”, a 3-D IMAX production by Tim Liversedge on the Okavango. We stayed to see a second 3-D film on Deep Sea creatures. We took a ferry across for a brief visit to the North Shore and then went south to see the Bloedel Conservatory which has parrots in with the flowers. It was closed due to a labour dispute, so all we could see was the surrounding garden which has been built in an old quarry. We had dinner at the Cactus Club Café which had no cacti but did have a succulent nude on the wall.

On the 23rd we took a bus south to the US border at Blaine. (I was interested in the name as my grandmother was the first white child born in Blaine, Oregon. I have never been to Oregon, however.) It took an hour to clear our stuff through customs and there was nowhere to eat lunch. (Of course we didn’t have food with us as it wouldn’t be allowed through customs!) We survived and reached Seattle, caught a cab to the airport area and (after a search because it was hidden behind more expensive places) found a room in the Rodeway Inn. That evening we ate at Denny’s, a sure sign we were back in the States.

Next day we took a shuttle bus out to Olympia where Polly went to Jr. High. Of course, she found a quilt shop straight off. They had a farmers market where we had lunch and then we watched a sand sculpture contest. We strolled by the harbor where there was a boat labeled Pearl (Polly’s middle name) as well as pickle weed and walked up to the state capitol. I managed to find a bookstore which was going out of business, so we got lots of cheap books. We had a good view of Mt Rainer on the way back.

On the 25th we boarded the plane (after finding that pre-boarding passes could only be issued to e-tickets and we had paper) to LA, but then sat on the runway in the heat for two hours. I’m glad they check planes when problems arise, but I did think a drink or two would have helped! We finally got to LA (with a good view of Crater Lake -- I’ve now seen Oregon) and just made the flight to Bakersfield. (A passenger going to Santa Barbara was not so lucky.) Anne picked us up and we have been here for over a year now. Will we do anything worth continuing writing? We’ll see. Perhaps Oregon, Idaho, Montana, the Dakotas and Alaska. That would complete all 50 states for me.

Polly & the Minotaur



PREVIOUS LETTER               Bruce's Letters               NEXT LETTER