North, North!

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An earlier trip on the ferry. Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada is in the distance.

Tim and I hooked ROW BIRD to Tim’s truck and headed north to the Blackball Ferry. I’d come across the 20-mile wide Strait of Juan de Fuca on the ferry a few times in the past. Each time, the weather was mild and a swell of only two or three feet was gently slapped the side of the ship. Steaming along at 15 knots and looking down from the comfort of the deck, two stories above the water, it seemed like no big deal.

I felt excited but calm as Vancouver Island started to come into view. After making the crossing, the ferry chugs steadily through a question mark shaped harbor, surrounded by tall, ugly, modern looking buildings. It winds along towards a historic, stone hotel and a startling array of brightly painted, comical-looking water taxis, marinas with big and bigger yachts, and a steady stream of float planes taking richies to far-flung places.

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Once we got back into the car, a little bit of madness began. We rolled out of the dark hold of the ferry and up to the customs line. When we got to the front of the line, the agent looked us both over after Tim handed over the passports.

“Where are you headed?”

“Port McNeil.”

Her eyes darted away for a moment as she thought about the geography of the island. Port McNeil is a little town on the north end of the island nearly 300 miles distant.

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“And what will you do up there?” she asked, seeming not to notice the boats attached to the truck.

“Well, I’d dropping him off,” Tim noted calmly, pointing at me, as if this happened all the time, “and he’s going to sail back to the United States.”

Her eyes turned to me.

“You’re going to sail back in that boat?”

I smiled and nodded.

“And how long will that take you?” Her dubious, yet thoughtful expression clearly showed she was trying to figure out if we were fooling with her.

“I’ve never done it, but I’m guessing about six weeks,” I replied honestly.

“And what kind of work do you do that you can take six weeks off?”

Once she asked that, I knew I had an answer she’d believe.

“Bureaucrat,” I replied. “I’ve had my vacation capped and my boss said, spend it down.”

She waved us through.

After that ordeal, we pulled right into the heart of the city of Victoria where throngs of tourists covered the sidewalk and spilled into the street. Driving was a bit stressful and I was just the passenger- moreso with a 20’ trailer behind us. I’d done this before, but it was still a little crazy.

I had instructions to a bank where I planned to get a cache of Canadian money- especially a bunch of their one-dollar coins known as loonies for the loon that graces one side. Strangely, once we found the bank, each door was locked!

I was baffled. Do Canadians take some kind of abnormally long lunch, I wondered. Are they trying to show us Americans how to really enjoy life? No, I figured something else must be afoot. Then is dawned on me that it was the dreaded BC day. A holiday for the sake of a holiday that always occurs on the first Monday in August. Every time I’ve been in British Columbia I seem to stumble on to BC day. I’m all for a nice holiday, but Canadians take their holidays a little too seriously and everything shuts down and I mean everything. It’s like Christmas in the US.

Tim waited more patiently than I would have, as I fretted about what to do. I wanted a big stack of loonies because they were so useful for buying little things- and more importantly, because they were critical to making coin operated showers run! Instead, I settled for more compact, but less useful big bills from an ATM.

As the seemingly endless sprawl of Victoria thinned on the sides of the highway, a few farm stands were open. There’s nothing I like doing better on a trip than stopping. So stop we did. Apples and a cantaloupe were soon placed in the hold and a stack of loonies were in my wallet.

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