Tuesday, April 21, 2009
Road Trip One- Vancouver Island, B.C.
April 18, 2009 dawns clear and bright with the promise of a warm spring day as Tom and I begin what is the first of several road trips surrounding our Journey Into The Country. Traveling north on SR 101 towards Port Angeles to catch the 8:20 a.m. ferry to Victoria, B.C., the early morning sky gently comes to light while the forest walls give way to the blue water of the Strait of Juan De Fuca. Our final destination this fine day? Tofino, B.C. on Vancouver Island to collect the Waterford Stanley solid fuel (wood) cookstove which will become the heart of our soon-to-be new home in NE Washington!
As we board the M.V. Coho, excitement mounts. Although, rising at 3:45 a.m., adrenaline and the rolling of the ferry combine to make two drowsy passengers. Slowly, the snow-covered Olympic Mountains shrink behind as the lovely downtown harbour of Victoria grows closer. Ninety minutes later we disembark and north on Hwy. 1, passing numerous wineries, dairy farms, garden nurseries and antique malls. We must come here for an actual holiday to visit all these places! The rented 1-ton cargo van makes easy driving- Cowichan Bay, Nanaimo, Parksville, Port Alberni- enjoying beautiful views every which way.
We had no idea what we were headed for other than a peninsula area known for its exquisite coastal beaches. Unbeknownst to us, in order to reach Tofino, roughly (pun intended) 85 km of narrow, winding, rough, steep, stunning highway twist before us like a ribbon. With every turn rivers, creeks, water falls, ravines, building-sized boulders, sheer rock overhangs, rain forest, snow- neither of us have seen such dramatic beauty! Those last 85 km are doosies, too- narrow 2-lane road blasted through the edge of solid rock mountains, sheer drop-offs, no shoulder, no guard rails, rough pavement, up and down, 8, 10 and 18% grades. Somewhere around the last 3 km we were desperate to get out of the van! Finally, the charming coastal town of Tofino.
First stop, check into Chelsea's Bed & Breakfast Inn. Jens Kalwa runs a lovely, home-like three-room Inn with gorgeous views of Clayoquot Bay. Jens makes a fabulous smoked salmon omelet breakfast, too! Did I mention he surfs and does fishing, whale-watching and bear-watching charters? Next trip, we will definitely stay at Chelsea's.
Still dizzy and very stiff, its back into the van (ugh!) to meet Michel Froment and his son, Jean-Paul, with whom we've been exchanging email, to collect the Waterford Stanley cookstove, the whole purpose of this trip. The Froments friend, Jamie, was also on hand to help load the 700 pound beauty. Thank you, guys, for everything!!! The Froments own Live To Surf, check it out when you are in the area.
Next, an incredible dinner at Schooner's followed by a brief walk on famous Chesterman Beach. Beware- the beauty will take your breath away! Finally, back to the Inn and bedtime for these two weary travelers.
Sunday morning dawns foggy with a light rain falling, contributing to our already drowsy state of mind. After the aforementioned breakfast feast, we were as ready to hit the winding road as we could be. I must admit, this stretch of highway was actually pleasant at the beginning of the travel day than at the end! The van handled its load very well; we all arrived home safe and sound later that evening.
Along the way, it was fun to see the reactions of various ferry personnel and customs staff upon hearing our reason for going to Canada. After asking to see the stove, one man said: "I've seen one of those in a museum." People were genuinely surprised we'd travel all that distance "just for an old stove." Another told us he'd follow right behind in living a sustainable off-grid life. One young man in Victoria kept asking questions and as we passed him to load onto the ferry called out "Enjoy the stove!" I like to think we gave them all an interesting story to tell at the end of their work day.
"Was it worth it?" we've been asked. We reply with an unhesitating "Yes!"
Want to see more photos? Go to our Tofino album.