BETWEEN THE LINES: A break from the routine

Vacations are cool. They provide a break from the routine of everyday life. My wife and I decided awhile back to do something a little different this summer, so we planned a week-long stay in Vancouver, Canada. The plan called for us to meet our daughter in Seattle, then rent a car for the three-hour drive to Vancouver.

Of course, this trip required us to get a passport. Unfortunately, the one I obtained in 1976 to go to Paris had long since expired. Getting a passport is a cumbersome and expensive process.

We can thank the terrorists of Sept. 11, 2001, for that, along with a much more elaborate boarding procedure.

For this trip, I drew the black bean and was plucked from the long line leaving Austin-Bergstrom International Airport to undergo a security check. The Transportation Safety Administration employee wiped a cloth across my fingers and then tested it on a machine. I assume they were looking for chemical residue, which could be tied to explosives. I can barely manage to pack my own suitcase, let alone make a bomb.

During our Vancouver experience, we stayed in one location the entire week. Our two-bedroom and two-bathroom apartment, located on the 22nd floor of a downtown building, had a spectacular panoramic view of the city with snow-capped mountains in the background.

The temperature hovered around 50-60 degrees with only a nominal amount of rain in a region that has plenty all year. In addition to the climate, the foliage is different from Texas. Tall Western cedars and Douglas firs abound. I believe Longfellow would have called it the forest primeval.

If you go to Vancouver, take a day trip to Whistler, site of the 2010 Winter Olympics. The 90-minute drive takes you along the Pacific Ocean and into the mountains. Be sure to stop at Shannon Falls, halfway to the resort town.

Other notable attractions are Stanley Park, site of the largest public park on the northern continent, and the world-renowned botanical gardens. The park provides a beautiful view of the city and houses the aquarium, along with a host of other attractions. The botanical garden located elsewhere in the city offers a sample of plants from around the world.

Visit Gastown and watch the oldest steam-operated clock. The best time to go is after dark which, by the way, does not occur until after 10 p.m. The streets are lined with old-fashioned lights.  Other stops should include Granvillle Island and Chinatown.

The population of the Vancouver metropolitan area is about 2.3 million; the city itself hovers around 600,000. It has the second largest public transit system on the continent with only New York City surpassing it. The charming metropolis is clean, safe and friendly with trees lining many of its thoroughfares.

If one is looking for a great vacation spot, Vancouver will not disappoint. Now back to the routine.

Laughlin is a Christian Libertarian. He is an economist, teacher, father, husband and most recently a grandfather. He has written a weekly column for The Tribune for 13 years. He and his wife Gina reside in Meadowlakes. To contact him, email He is an independent columnist, not a staff member, and his views do not necessarily reflect those of The Tribune or its parent company.

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