Dim sum: some adventure

Some decade and a half ago, when I lived in Canada, Richmond, BC, was an enclave of often British-born retirees, the town as white as my unexposed epithelium.

So when I looked up on Google Maps the place Buddy Rob wanted to go, I was surprised that the best-reviewed dim sum place was in Richmond. I wrote out the directions, which are usually easier for me to follow when I’m in a hurry (read: trying not to hit the guy in front of me). Piece of cake: Take 99 to 91W, off on Alderbridge, hang a right. I don’t know Richmond as well as Vancouver, by any means, but it looked pretty straightforward.

Until we discovered there was no 91W exit. We went straight from “Richmond Next 4 Exits” to “Welcome to Vancouver.”

Hey, I can make U-turns. Especially in Vancouver, where I expect everything to go wrong. So I did, and back we went. Remember, we are hardcore old-schooling it here: No map. Decade-old memories. Directions that do not appear to match any physical landmark within a five-mile radius.

I took a road whose name and geographical orientation I recognized, then another that appeared to go in the right direction (it was thoroughly overcast; who could tell west from east? All the directions are twisted around up there ’cause the mountains point the wrong way). Muttering all the time: “I think this goes here, and comes out there… and that goes over to the Knight Street Bridge; we don’t want that…”

After 20 or 30 minutes, we had been on several streets that should have but didn’t intersect with the one we wanted. When it became apparent that we were likely drawing ever farther from our destination and we passed a gas station, Rob grumbled, “Maybe we should stop and ask.”

“What?!” I replied. “This is an Adventure! We’ll find it, never fear!”

“Look, there’s a gas station. We could stop and ask.”

“Nah. I’m pretty sure this street gets us there.”

He barked out a laugh. “You do see the irony here, right? You’re the woman, you’re driving, and you won’t stop to ask directions; I’m the man, I’m not driving, and I’m begging you: STOP AND ASK!

I gave that the thorough ignoring it deserved and hared off toward what looked like it might be the part of the freeway we should have had in the first place. That didn’t pan out, cars were thinning out, and we could smell salt water. Hey, when your hunting ground is between seashore and mountain upthrust, and you hit one of those, that’s a clue it’s time to turn around.

The gas station guy didn’t know anything, but he did have a smartphone and got directions. Turned out if I’d kept going on the second street I was on instead of turning left, we’d’ve been there.

“There” turned out to be interesting. I can hear the old Richmondites screaming even now, because the entire area is Chinese, in that new-immigrant Chinatown way where you can’t find store names or street numbers because they’re all in Chinese. After a couple of false starts into astonishingly packed parking lots (remember that saw about the personal space Chinese people don’t have, compared to Americans? It extends to cars, too), we found it, actually staked a parking spot, and went inside.

Rob’s dim sum experiences on the East Coast involved waitstaff trundling six- and eight-tiered carts about, packed with exotic-looking goodies to which you could say, “Ooh, that looks interesting! Let’s try that!” This place had only a lengthy menu-cum-order-ticket (below), with the names of dishes in Chinese (top) and Engrish (sic, bottom) and no prices (uh-oh). We ordered one of this and one of that and one of this…

By the time the waitress was laughing at the mountain of food we had on the table and had dumped off the third of what ultimately turned out to be our five trips worth of food, we realized there’d been too many “ooh, that looks interesting”s and not enough “how many have we marked now?”s.

We staggered out and decided to hit True Confections in Vancouver, and at least pick up some gooey artery-clogging dessert to take home with us. Confidently, I hit the road and headed east, toward the freeway and Oak Street.

They didn’t appear.

I wound up in a no-exit go-to-the-airport road. So we went almost to the airport before I could make a U-turn. With what were only a few small annoyances, given Vancouver traffic, the city’s penchant for changing traffic patterns without notice, and the fact that it’s still road destruction season, we got there pretty quickly, passing by Lawrence Used Books with a wave and a promise.

Upon leaving with take-away goodies and a couple of six packs for Snaotheus, I took Dunbar straight west (it feels like south, damn those mountains) to SW Marine, which should have taken us with the least amount of traffic to Oak Street, where we would have blended easily into 99 south and on our way home. Unfortunately, we were behind the s-l-o-w-e-s-t concrete truck I have ever seen. It was like Seattle gridlock in one lane. When we got to the Oak Street split-off, I pulled up into a lane that I noticed too late was a left-turn-only when I wanted to go right. So I went right anyway.

Sadly, that right took us… right back to the airport… and thence back into downtown Richmond, to exactly the streets we’d been carouseling about in earlier.

I admit it. I was about done with Adventure. I’d used up the next year’s worth of U-turns. I just wanted to go home. But still… no map! So we stumbled about ’til we hit Alderbridge, which clever readers will remember was where we’d wanted to end up that morning. I muttered under my breath at various crossroads, “That one goes to the Patullo Bridge… that one goes somep-l-a-c-e—”

At that moment, I noticed my car was bouncing up and down like a kiddie playground horse. This is not normal. I glared around and saw Rob, squeezed into his corner, both hands over his face trying to disguise his hilarity.

“This is not risible,” I snapped.

“Oh, but it is,” he howled. “I’m quite sure this road goes someplace, but given where they’ve taken us today I’m pretty sure it’s not anyplace we want to be!”

“Look!” I distracted, my voice quavering as the car bounced with his laughter. “A sign for 99!!”

Interestingly, that was the only sign for 99 for many miles, and whatever road we were on took us over the Patullo Bridge (how the hell did we get on the wrong side of that?) and down the far east edges of Richmond, Delta and Surrey. It kept saying that Seattle was down that way somewhere, so we kept going, and eventually did get to the border.

Where the border guard told us we couldn’t bring in any amount of beer duty-free unless we’d been in Canada for 48 hours. I must’ve looked like his broken-hearted granny, because he said, “I’ll let you go this time. There’s not enough alcohol in two six packs to make it worthwhile.” I thanked him profusely, immediately started to turn the wrong direction into the “we’re going to take your car apart bit by bit” lane, and yanked over into the right lane at the last second and shot for home.

Now, I’ve always thought of myself as having a pretty good sense of direction. In the Southwest, I do. It’s those damn twisty mountains up here, I tell you. But after a day of taking every sodding wrong street and wrong turn it was possible to take, my confidence is shattered. I think I’ll stick to walking around in my driveway. With a map. A big one.

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Posted by wordsmith

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