Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Vancouver Island

When planning our trip, I had thought spending the weekend in Vancouver and leaving for Vancouver Island on Monday would be less crowded on the ferry. But I didn't realize that this particular Monday was Victoria Day, and not just any Victoria Day, but the 150th anniversary of Victoria! Needless to say, the ferries were jammed going both ways! The only reservations we could get were for an 8:30am Monday morning crossing departing from Horseshoe Bay (about a 45 minute drive from the campground). Since we also needed to pack & hitch up the T@B, it was a very early wake-up!

I'd never taken a trailer on a ferry before and was not quite sure what to expect. But BC Ferries really knows their stuff. We arrived to the loading ramp with plenty of time to spare, and Mom's car was able to go right behind mine with the T@B.

Here is Millie awaiting her first ferry ride ever. Note the regal purple bandana in honor of Victoria Day!

All lined up waiting for the ferry. That's a full-sized semi truck next to me!

We lucked out and got aboard one of the brand new ferries in their system, the Coastal Renaissance which had been built in Germany and sailed over the high seas all the way to Vancouver. The ship's hull had plenty of roof clearance for semi trucks and the T@B....and was just about the last place I would have expected to see a couple of T@B gawkers, but there they were! Ooo-ing and ahh-ing over little T@Bitu.

Millie had to stay by herself in the car for the voyage, and she wasn't looking too excited about it:

The new ferry was very euro-chic on the inside. We first checked out the very large dining room that featured floor to ceiling windows all around for great views. They also had really good fresh-cooked meals onboard too. Mom and I had a great hot breakfast while watching for whales and sea lions out the windows (unfornately, didn't see any, but we did have some nice views of the sound and mountains).

Here's Mom strolling the decks taking pictures:

Even the bathrooms were nice!

After a calm, relaxing 90 minute crossing, we arrived at Departure Bay in Nanaimo. Millie did fine in the hull by herself, but once we hit shore, she really had to go! Fortunately, Nanaimo had a really nice harborside park. But all the clear skies, sunshine, and hot weather had now been replaced by the more typical overcast, drizzly, mid-50's days of the Pacific Northwest.

After exploring Nanaimo a bit, it was on to find our RV park. I was amazed to find that my Subaru's GPS navigation system worked on the Island, so getting to our destination was pretty easy. We planned to stay about mid-way up the Island on the eastern shore in the small resort village of Qualicum Beach. It was an absolutely delightful town with very friendly people. We stayed at an RV park that was right across the street from this nice bay:

Here was our campsite at Qualicum Bay RV Park. The super huge site was a welcome relief from the tiny, cramped site in Vancouver. It was an older park, but lovingly owned and maintained by a couple who were originally from Germany. We could have stayed there all summer!

We did have one near-disaster though. We had decided to do a day trip over to Tofino one day, and we arrived back to camp that evening to discover that strong wind gusts (and my T@B having a defective awning track that was not tight enough) had caused 3 legs of the screenroom to pull away from the T@B and flip upside down in front of it. When we drove up, the screenroom looked like a twisted, mangled mess and hopelessly ruined.

I was sick and couldn't even look at the screenroom, so started gathering up other items while Mom looked it over. A few minutes later she said "you know, this might be o.k. All the legs still look o.k., there are no tears in the fabric, and the roof frame looks good." I was absolutely shocked, but indeed she was right! After a few minutes of carefully untwisting and righting it, the screenroom looked as good as new! Once we reattached it to the T@B's awning track, I took a wedge and mallet to hammer the track closed a bit more so it'd hold the screenroom better, and we had no further problems with it after that. What a relief!

Our daytrip over to Tofino had been a fun adventure. There's only one 2-lane road that traverses across the island from east to west (the Pacific Rim Highway). It's only about a 100 mile drive between Qualicum and Tofino, but it still took us over 3 hours to get there due to all the twists and turns.

As we drove through the little town of Coombs, we saw an adorable new palomino colt at a small horse farm with the memorable name of "Money Pit Meadows."
It reminded us of friends from home, Mona & Bill, who have had quite a time fixing up their own little "money pit meadows" horse barn and house.

After leaving Port Alberni, it was near total wilderness all the rest of the way to Tofino-- beautiful tree-covered mountains with clouds hugging their tops, and a number of waterfalls and lakes.

Tofino itself was another interesting study of contrasts. It's a small fishing village that is the only road-accessible town on the whole west coast of the island. It has the Pacific Ocean on it's western shores and Clayoquot Sound on it's northern and eastern shores. Here's the fishing harbor on the Clayoquot side. There are a number of tiny islands in the sound that are popular kayaking destinations, and it's also a great place to kayak among the whales (we didn't see any though).

Tofino put itself "on the map" by catering to the wealthy spa-chic crowd as a place they could get away from the hustle, bustle urban life to enjoy the wilderness. It's pretty comical to watch the townspeople and tourists interact in the small downtown area. The townspeople are all fishermen, native Indians, and hippie kayaker dudes; while the tourists all seem to be wealthy, younger, urban hipsters. Quite a combination!

We ate lunch at one of the spa-chic high-end restaurants in town that featured a large lodge-style fireplace and leather sofas, ultra-swank bathrooms with toilet paper holders that had small LCD televisions built into them, and a trendy urban-inspired menu. There were only 2 other diners in the place by the time we arrived in mid-afternoon, and amazingly, they had driven all the way to Tofino from Chicago as well!

After lunch, we headed south to the Pacific Rim National Park and Long Beach along the Pacific ocean. An absolutely gorgeous beach:

On the way home, what day would not be complete for Millie without finding a little place to take a dip! Millie enjoyed her swim in this small lake in the middle of nowhere.

The next day, it was time to leave Qualicum and head south back through Nanaimo to Victoria. Nanaimo has a decidedly American feel to it with all of it's modern shopping conveniences of Wal-Mart, Home Depot and the like. Millie was running low on her favorite doggie treats, but not to fear, Nanaimo had a Petsmart and she was thrilled to be able to do a little shopping and collect a few more milkbone treats at the check-out counter!

Between Nanaimo and Victoria are a few smaller villages. One, called Cowichan Bay, had been highly recommended to us by a lady in Qualicum, so we made it our lunch stop. We had some great fish and chips for lunch, and then took some pictures along the harborfront:

No comments: