British Columbia has always been about family for me. My grandparents moved there, both my uncles on my mom’s side lived there, and my aunt lived there for awhile as well. Today it is just my uncle and cousins living out West. My uncle Barry and cousin Rebecca live on Salt Spring Island – an island paradise full of hippies, where every fourth car is a Westfalia and people don’t bat an eye at our flower and peace-sign decked out Amelia. I emailed Barry ahead of time and asked him just how long “too long” would be for a visit, knowing that we needed some R&R and also that Salt Spring Island would be a hard place to leave. We ended up staying a relaxing and family-filled week. Not only are Barry and Rebecca there, but also my little brother is spending the summer living with Barry and working at his Inn.
My uncle Barry is an amazing cook and he had said to arrive hungry for dinner, and so we did. He cooked us a delicious meal, which we ate out on his deck overlooking a field of horses below. We sat and chatted and howled at the moon into the wee hours of the morning. Actually that’s pretty much what we did every night 🙂
During the day we would make short excursions into town. A couple times we hung out at Barry’s Inn, where there was high-speed internet. Remember that new lens we bought? Here’s some pics from the inn that we took with it:
We got some cat-time in with Barry’s cats. He has three – Sushi, Whiskers, and Leroy.
Sushi is clearly the favourite and gets special treatment. She’s the girl and Barry treats her like a princess.
The other two are brothers, and definitely look it. Here they’re being all cute and snuggly with one another, but they also tore into each other now and again.
When I wasn’t snuggling with the kitties, I was down conversing with the horses. Where my mom lives there are two horses at the end of the road and any time I go visit her, I often go visit the horses and feed them some carrots, if we have extra, or tall grass, if we don’t. I like horses. They scare me a little because they’re so big, but I like them and I think they’re beautiful.
This guy was pretty pushy. I was feeding grass to a black female horse before and then he sauntered over, whinnied at her, and pushed his way in and wouldn’t let her have any after that. Then, when I was feeding him grass, every time I bent down to grab some more, he would push up against me with his head and get impatient and yank the grass out of my hand as soon as I brought it towards him. At one point I took a little too long and he nipped me in the back! I let out a yelp because it actually hurt a lot. Then, and then this is the part where it gets weird, and I’m still wrapping my brain around it – he got an erection. This isn’t necessarily something I’d normally notice but if you’ve ever seen a horse’s…you know…well, it’s hard to miss! Any horse experts out there who can explain this to me? Are there sadist horses out there? I was in shock, as was Steve. And maybe a little awe as well. And definitely blushing. I turned to nature’s other beauties after that.
That poor cow thinks he’s a horse. No other cows and a field of horses will do that to a cow I guess. He’d follow them around like they were his herd and run after them when they strayed too far for his comfort. Because of him, I want a cow. My cow would probably end up thinking he was a cat. I wonder what a cow who thinks he’s a cat would get up to.
So I’ve had my baby – um, I mean, my camera – for about 4 years now and I’ve never had a problem with it. A couple days into our visit on Salt Spring Island, it died. The shutter kept getting stuck open and Google gave us a few options to try fixing it ourselves. Handy-man Wonder Boy opened my baby up and gave it a whirl, but nothing seemed to work. So we decided to make a trek to Victoria where there were a few camera repair places. It also coincided with Steve going flying out of Sydney (near Victoria) and with my brother’s day off. So we all hopped in Amelia and crossed the ferry to the other island for the day.
It was bad news for my baby. To fix it, they’d need to order parts, and the parts would come from, of all places, Mississauga, Ontario. It would take weeks. Not having a good camera for the second half of our trip just wasn’t an option. The repair shop said it would likely cost a couple hundred dollars to fix my baby. We decided for that amount of money, we could buy ourselves a used camera body instead. We could have gotten my camera, a Nikon D50, for a great price, but I think I might have already hinted that my husband has a weakness for new technology – it was D80 or bust in his mind. And actually we got an amazing deal on one. Even the camera store guys were shocked at how few pictures (800!) had been snapped with the used D80 we got for less than half the price of a brand new one.
My brother and I walked around Victoria and Steve went off and flew over the islands (lucky duck!).
We all met up at a restaurant later and grabbed a bite to eat before just barely catching the last ferry back to Salt Spring Island. That’s something I learned about living on an island – you really don’t want to miss the last ferry home!
The islands were having a heat wave the week that we were there. It was hilarious listening to the locals complain about how hot it was – it never got higher than 23C (73.4 F) degrees and it always felt cool to us in the shade because of the winds coming in off the ocean. We did enjoy going to the beach on the “hot” days, though. Rebecca took us to a favourite spot of the younger folk, up Mount Maxwell, where there is a beautiful lake.
Doing flips off the rock seemed to be the favourite activity of this spot. My heart leapt to my throat every time someone made the leap, and especially when Becky did it.
That Friday, everyone had the day off, so Barry took us to his favourite beach on the island. It’s on the ocean, so the water was waaay too cold for swimming in (no really, you’d need a wet suit), but it was the perfect spot for sun-bathing and relaxing.
Not many locals know about it and there were only two other people when we arrived, and they soon left. We had a rousing game of Bocci balls once we had the beach all to ourselves.
On the weekend we checked out the big market that happens every Saturday. It was packed! Packed with people and packed with vendors selling cool local crafty and tasty goods. We bought some colourful stoneware bowls with dragonflies in the centre. I love them!
As I knew it would be, it was hard to leave Salt Spring Island. But we weren’t leaving the islands altogether. Several people had suggested visiting Tofino, so off to Tofino we went. It’s a quaint little town set on an edge of Vancouver island with ocean on either side. It’s known for Long Beach (a very long stretch of beach nearby), whale and bear-watching, and hot springs. It was cold and foggy when we were exploring Tofino, so we decided against the latter activities and headed for Long Beach.
The fog actually made for some fun photography.
While walking the beach, I always keep my eyes open for treasures and usually walking a beach means pockets-full of shells, but on this trip I’ve been very good and haven’t collected any. We don’t have a lot of room in Amelia, and if I’m really honest with myself, I probably have enough shells for a lifetime (don’t hold me to that in the future…I’ll deny I ever wrote this blog and call you crazy). But what I will never be able to resist, are sand dollars, and this beach had giant ones. It had bigger sand dollars than I’ve ever seen before. They were the size of the palm of my hand. Or at least that’s how big they would have been if they weren’t all in pieces. Despite having two pairs of eyes on the task (no, Steve could care less about sand dollars. But he cares about me 🙂 ), we could not find a single sand dollar that was intact. Still, it made for a fun detective’s hunt. We decided to cross the river that was formed at low tide, even though it was freezing cold, in order to get to the untouched stretch of beach where no one else seemed to be going. But alas, there were no intact sand dollars on the other side either.
The drive to and from Tofino is a beautiful, winding-through-the-hills drive.
Barry had ideas for stops along the way and we checked them all out. On the way there, we went to the Crow and Gate Pub, which seemed to be plucked right out of England and transported to the island, gardens and duck pond included. I had some sausages and potatoes and Steve had some vegetarian-friendly concoction.
On our way back we stopped at Cathedral Grove and took a stroll through the giant and ancient trees. We also had a cat nap inside Amelia in the shade of their giant bows. Apparently I was too sleepy to get pictures.
Also on our way back, we stopped at Coombs Country Market, a hilarious touristy restaurant and shop with souvenirs and local delicacies inside, and the big draw – goats on the roof.
I remember seeing this when I was a kid and being just tickled pink by the idea. I still am. I find goats in general hilarious, on a roof just adds to their hilarity.
I mentioned our little cat-nap back at the Cathedral Grove. We were pretty pooped that day, me especially. Because of this, Steve was doing most of the driving. We have a rule that as soon as one of us gets tired at the wheel, we pull over and switch. It’s easy to think you can push through the tiredness and sometimes with a little caffeine you can, but the amount of driving we do on this trip, it’s not worth it to tempt fate. Hence, the rule. After Coombs it was my turn to drive because Steve was definitely tired. Problem was, I was tired too. Tired and hungry – bad combination. Our plan was to grab a bite to eat in Nanaimo before catching the ferry back to the mainland. Well on-route a parked car jumped out and hit Amelia.
What? Parked cars can’t hit you? Hm. Well ok, I guess it’s possible that Amelia’s back-end might have, maybe, kind of, nicked this guy’s front bumper a little.
There wasn’t a scratch on Amelia, of course. Our girl’s built like a tank! Really I would have preferred it being the other way around. We found the owner of the car, who happened to be participating in a fundraiser at the restaurant where we were going to eat. The fundraiser was for breast cancer and he was a ripped guy wearing pants and a bow-tie. No shirt. I kid you not. The six-pack on this guy, oh my! I didn’t feel right about asking to take my picture with him, especially since a nerdy gay boy came over while we were exchanging info and asked him for just that and he declined.
I would just like to state for the record that I have never being in an accident (of my own doing), nor have I had a single speeding ticket. There goes my perfect record 😦
We arrived in Vancouver late that evening and received word from my cousin Evelyn (Barry’s other daughter) that we could park in her backyard. That was good news because we weren’t having much luck finding a campground. She lives with a bunch of artists and the house shows it – very eclectic decorating, full of colour and random objects! We had a lovely sleep and then went for sushi brunch the next day with Evelyn. It was a quick visit, but still it was nice to spend even just a little time with Evelyn.
We had plans to visit Stanley Park and bike along the Sea Wall, but by the time we got our act together it was nearing rush hour and we did not want to see what Friday Vancouver rush hour was like. Even leaving the city when we did (3ish) we caught a bit of traffic on the way out.
As you know, we made it as far as Abbotsford. We were nearing Chilliwack, a place I have fond memories of because my grandparents lived there, and I was looking out the window, taking in the scenery and thinking of my grandparents. I was pulled out of my reminiscing by Steve swearing and pulling over to the side of the road. The stop-and-go traffic we ran into was just too much for the old girl and her temperature gauge read that she was very unhappy. We had seen several other overheated unhappy cars along the highway before Amelia conked out, so the highway claimed more than one victim that day. We let Amelia cool down and twice attempted to get her back on the road, only to have her freak out on us again and flash her red warning light that all was not well. We placed our second call to CAA and got towed to the only auto shop still open in Abbotsford on a Friday evening after 5pm.
Unfortunately the guy working Friday and Saturday was not familiar with Volkswagens and did not want to even look at Amelia. We ended up staying overnight in the auto shop’s parking lot (!), across the street from a Fire Station. The next morning the very friendly and helpful owner convinced his man to look at Amelia and try to diagnose the problem. We were VERY relieved to find out it was not the head gasket that was the problem (that’s an $1000+ job Steve explained to me) and was most likely a fan issue. Their European car expert was working on Monday and he would work on Amelia first thing so that we could be out of Abbotsford by the afternoon. Again we had found a great mechanic in a city we don’t live in. Look him up if you need help in Abbotsford!
If you read this entire post – you’re awesome. Write me a comment below and I’ll get your address through email and send you a postcard because you’re so awesome 🙂
P.S. Any tips on things to do, or places to see in Saskatchewan or Manitoba?