Not Dead Yet II: Still Not Dead!
Sept. 27, 2000
I have been unsuccessful in reaching my relative, and this morning I find out why - he's on the east coast, visiting his brother. Hmm. Well, let's go see what Victoria, B.C. is like. Everyone says it is beautiful, so why not. I'm also starting to put together a plan that is getting me excited, a destination that would just be amazing if I can make it. I have a slow leasurely drive up the Eastern coast of the Olympic Peninsula, a gorgeous drive in nice mild temperatures and sunshine. I arrive in Port Angeles, the port witha direct ferry to Victoria, mid afternoon and grab a couple ferry schedules while eating lunch, as I have a couple hours to kill while waiting for the ferry. I stop by a visitor center after lunch and double check a few particulars. It's not perfect, but I can do it. If I take the ferry to Victoria today, and then in the morning drive 320 miles north to the north end of Vancouver Island, at a town called Port Hardy I can catch a ferry the following morning that will take me to a town called Prince Rupert, which is some 150 miles south of the southernmost town in Alaska that one can drive to, Hyder. The ferry ride up there is fifteen hours, and there would be a two day layover, and then I'd repeat the process in reverse, but I can do it, and the thought of a picture of a town in Alaska is just too much to resist. I'm a little concerned about the length of time I'll be out of touch with the people trying to make sure I'm still ok, but they know I might be out of touch and that I couldn't reach my uncle, so that'll be ok. I am also concerned about the remoteness, but I am assured by a couple locals that I should have no problem and everyone is very friendly up that way. The ferry to Victoria arrives, and I begin to gather my gear and get ready. As I get on my bike, a thought passes through my head, "OK, God, what will it be, am I going to make this? How about a sign?" Those of you who know me know that my relationship with God is somewhat different than most people's and I'm not what one would call a religious person, although I am deeply spiritual and I see a very clear difference, so to me it was rather unusual that I would have such a thought. It was also extremely distressing to me that my bike decided not to start. It was as dead as a door nail. No lights, no starter, no nothing. Here I am getting ready to embark on the mother of all banzai runs and my extremely dependable bike which has never left me so stranded I couldn't fix it there and then, is dead without a clue as to why. By this time everyone has boarded and the porter is coming up to me asking me if I need a boost. Oh man, what do I do? Stay here in the States where I can get parts, or chance it that I can figure it out on the ferry ride over? Let's get the booster and see what happens. Lights, ignition, ok, let's get on board. I've got a dead battery but I know there is a motorcycle dealer in Victoria. During the ride I pull the battery and fill it with distilled water, as it was down some but not enough to kill it. A member of the crew finds me a battery charger and I put it on to charge for a while, then head up to see the view, turning off the battery charger before I go.
While up there, I am treated to a rare sight. I see an orca, maybe two, first pacing the boat then off some ways playing with what was probably a school of fish. I know it was an orca and not porpoises because of the distance involved. I did see the black and white patterns, but most animals in this area have that pattern. It is the distance that tells me it was an orca, because even at that distance it was quite large. I saw several vents, and a dive, plus some rooster tails from the rapid direction changes it was making while playing. Quite exciting.
Back at the bike, I reinstall the battery and start the bike. It is approaching 7pm, and I need lodging. I know there is a KOA campground outside of the city. I will make that and then assess my situation. All I need to do is make Port Hardy sometime tomorrow and take a motel room for the night, so I have some time in the morning to do repairs. Customs is fairly routine, with the agent asking me some circular questions to make sure I don't spook. Odd, but no big deal. I pull out of the ferry depot into downtown Victoria. A very nice city, and if for some reason I don't make the run to Alaska, not a bad place to stay for a day or two. I head out of town, looking for the campground. The description says it is 16 miles north of Victoria. I stop at Exit 16 and look around. Nothing. I double back, still nothing. I stop and call, as it is now quite dark. I get directions, assurances that I can find the tools I need there, and head up the way I was going. Several miles past where I had expected the campground I find it. OK, just pitch the tent, crash, get up in the morning and figure out what's wrong with the bike. Except I can't figure out where to place my tent. I look the campground layout map, but I am all confused because it is dark and there are no lights and some paths are roped off. After the third time I circle through the grounds, I find a place I can accept, but then I realize it's not level. Aw, hell, forget it, take a Kamping Kabin. I get off my bike and head back to the office (which was closed, hence my struggles). As I approach the office, a man is standing outside of it looking at me. He looks pretty casual, so I ask if he is the person I talked to on the phone. He is, and we talk about the layout and where I can pitch my tent. In the end, he says just take a Kabin, he'll only charge me for a tent site. Deal. Thank God. I'm exhausted. I don't even remember going to sleep, just waking up the next morning.
Sept. 28, 2000
In the morning I go back into the office. He has a voltmeter so I can check my bike's alternator, and while I am doing that he checks the weather on the route to Alaska. My bike checks out just fine, and I suspect the ignition switch is again the culprit. The weather, however, does not check out fine. Port Hardy and Prince Rupert are both expecting rain for the next four days, and Stewart, the town in Canada just across the international line, is expecting snow about the same time I'd be getting there. Man. Alright, for once I'm going to listen to common sense and decide against going. Big mistake. You see, I've been seduced by Victoria. I spend the day sightseeing, going to the Victoria Bug Zoo (scorpions are kinda rubbery to touch, and tarantulas actually are large enough for one to feel their weight when they are in your hand, I have pictures) and the British Columbia Museum. That night I go across the street to the Malahat Mountain Inn Restaurant and order Chicken Angel Hair Pasta, in a Chardonnay lime cream sauce, and have their Apple Berry Crumble for desert, which is a berry concoction with granola and apple cinnamon on top. I eat desert on their patio, which overlooks a beautiful bay, several hundred feet up, until the sun sets and darkness obscures the view. The price? About $20 US.
Sept. 29, 2000
The morning starts out raining, so I sleep in, electing to spend another day here. It is cheaper to wait out the rain system up here than in the US. I decide to go whale watching, so about 12 I board a small covered boat and we pound our way across the choppy water for a great view of sea lions basking in the rain on large rocks, barking at the intrusion. From there we go to where a grey whale has been feeding for four weeks, and we are treated to a very neat, if distant, view of a whale spouting and then diving, with the occasional fluke for punctuation. I manage to take some pictures of its back, but the camera has a delay from the time one presses the button and when it actually takes the picture, so I can not get the fluke.
It is raining pretty solidly as I ride back to the campground, but the temperature is not too cool, so it is not terribly unpleasant. I take the wet clothes as a good reason to do laundry, including my sneakers, and I am quite the sight for an hour, in shorts and barefoot, padding around getting my clothes washed. After I am done, it is back to the the MMI, this time for chicken strips and french fries. For dessert I elect to have hot buttered rum out on the patio, but that's not quite right, so I switch to hot rum and apple cider, with whipped cream and ground cinnamon. Perfect, and I sit under the corrogated plastic roof listening to the gentle patter of rain, the fresh forest smells mingling with the aroma of my drink.
Along Malahat Drive, north of Victoria, the fog does not "blanket the land." Instead, the fog is inherently male and the land is the object of his desire. Here, the land is seduced by the fog. It begins with the ritual dance and courtship, as he twirls and tumbles, spinning and shifting, captivating his audience. Slowly, tentatively, his fingers caress the valley sides, tenderly slipping between the trees in the intimate way only a lover can. Gaining courage, the fog thickens, gently obscuring the far side, a veil of privacy for a shy mistress. She is under his spell, enchanted and delighted, as he climbs up from the sea, flowing over her hills, engulfing her her for the night, surrendering her only in the basking warmth of the morning sun. Or maybe the rum just made it seem that way. I'm still looking for a reason to leave.
Sept. 30, 2000
John seems content to continue his offer of a Kabin for the price of a tent site for as long as I want, and for that I am quite grateful. All of the people here seem to be this way. There is no suspicion, no distance when they talk to you. Everyone is very open, and even when I ask them questions about what it is like to live here because I am thinking of staying, there is no resentment, only honest answers. I know they are honest because what sense would it make to tell me the place is "Lotusland," as one person put it. Everyone is genuinely happy here.
Before lunch I investigate a sign that offers an apartment for rent. I can't locate the owner or location, but I find another place offering an apartment, one with an unbelievable view. For the price of what it will take me to set up in San Diego for one month, I can stay here for three months. I wrestle with the decision all day.
After lunch I go to the Butchart Gardens, which are absolutely stunning. I have not seen the Biltmore Gardens in full bloom, but my guess is that the Butchart Gardens are bigger and more incredible. It would be hard for me to imagine something outdoing the Butchart. I'm no botanist, so the variety is lost on me, but oh, what variety. And within each grouping there are variations of color, so that there had to have been ten different rose colors, different shades of blue and red and pink and yellow. Long rows of flowers arranged for maximum impact of contrast, yellows beside oranges with backdrops of pink, blues interspersed with reds, just acre after acre of this. Walking through the Garden paths will take about an hour, much longer if you stop, which is inevitable. I took over 50 pictures, and I will post them as soon as possible, after selecting the best ones and eliminating a few that don't look like they came out right.
On the way back I stop at a grocery store for supplies. I have to carry the bags in one hand, and the handles are smaller than back in the US, so I can not wear my glove on my left hand and carry the bags. No problem, it's not too cool. I am rather dismayed, however, to find that during my ride back to my lodging I have lost the glove I should have worn. I trace my route, but I can not find the glove. It is a heavy riding glove, water resistant, and indispensable. I will need to stay another day and find a replacement pair. I can not travel without the warm gloves.
That evening I seem to have come to a decision to continue on to San Diego, but I change my mind again before I go to sleep. And again while I am sleeping, several times.
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