A Canadian Love Affair: British Columbia and Alberta Mountains (draft)(prairies soon)


Coming into Victoria

A long blast from her fog horn, a puff of black smoke from her stack, and the ferry Coho slid into Victoria, British Columbia’s charming covert of an inner harbor. The June sun danced on an easy harbor chop; sailboat masts tottered out of time; to port, a BC Air float plane broke water and roared away up-island. We all lined the bow rails to take in North America’s most beautiful harbor scene.

The Victorian reserve of Empress Hotel tolerated the waterfront’s bustle of coin-in-the-hat musicians, pedal-cabs and tourists; carriage horses snorted and clomped down the streets. People strolled along the seawall, scurried about on Government Street, and lounged on the lawn of Parliament. Scrubbed bright with color and light, full of life, the city dubbed by some Brits as, “more British than London” welcomed us.

Victoria was a wonderful introduction to British Columbia for us. We would be bicycling a large loop of the province for the next couple of months and the bustle of this vital international city provided counterpoint to the small towns and isolation we would experience later. It was a logical choice for us also, since our home was just across the Strait in Washington State, with a view of the lights of Victoria, and an easy 17 mile pedal to the ferry in Port Angeles.

On the long ferry ride from Port Angeles to Victoria, across the Strait of Juan de Fuca, everyone admired, Zippy, our heavily loaded tandem lashed on deck. Royal blue with red panniers, a jaunty flagpole fluttering US and Canadian flags, he is quite an attraction: “And, oh by the way, where are you going with this beautiful bicycle.” It’s a bit like having a new baby and discovering that no one ever looks at you anymore.

An inner harbor street fair offered ethnic music and food, and we lingered for something hot from India, and mellow from the barbershop singers. If only they’d played, Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer do, I’m half crazy over the love of you. It won’t be a stylish marriage, I can’t afford a carriage, but you’d look sweet upon the seat of a bicycle-built-for-two. Of course Claire would have insisted we ride Zippy across the stage…

While Claire was in one of those Royal something-or-other banks, changing our greenbacks for some much more colorful bills, Zippy and I stood on the corner. Soon, we were approached by a gentleman in tweeds with a mustache and a cane, and asked to tell about Zippy and our travels. His brother, either a hippie, or a Jesus figure I couldn’t be sure, arrived and we all discovered their mother’s maiden name was Rogers. This for some reason was a joyous occasion, and led to well wishes all round. I was given much advice on travel in British Columbia (hereafter BC) and many remonstrance’s to be careful, and enjoy our stay. Claire arrived to claim Zippy and me, and she was included in the general round of well wishes and God-speeds. And I was told people in BC would be distant and cool.

We arrived at friends Nick and Gina’s apartment to hugs. Soon we were inhaling veggie burgers and drinking Canadian ice tea (sweet) while enjoying the late sun over Victoria from their apartment roof. Claire and I had met them one Sunday in Sequim; they were on a shake-down cruise with their new tandem. We took them home with us, fed them, talked travel until the wee hours, and agreed to stop on our way up Vancouver Island. They planned to leave that September for Germany, Greece, Turkey and North Africa on their tandem.

Two of their friends, Jens (Yens) and Andrea arrived by bike to meet us. We talked music and Canadian/American stuff. I teased about the ubiquitous Canadian, eh? Jens countered that Americans end our sentences with, huh. I had to admit that eh?, sounds better than huh,. I am now working diligently on my, eh—eh?

Nick and Gina have taken in a short-term roommate, Kendall, a striking blond with a sophisticated wit. Kendall has a new man friend who plays drums in a jazz group called the Smoking Jackets. She left for their performance after modeling for us her very own smoking jacket, which she adorned with a very large cigar. Altogether lovely.

We stayed up late with Nick and Gina, talking about tools they might want to carry with them and the repairs Nick wanted to learn (we’ve been at this awhile). Turkey and North Africa will be lacking in well equipped bike shops. Gina was interested in sewing a copy of the in-frame tool bag Claire made for Zippy; extra storage is always nice.

Next morning while we prepared Zippy on the street, we noticed how much of the downtown bound commute traffic was bicycles. They’re aren’t many bike lanes or bike paths in the city, but neither are there many high-speed streets. And, a man walked by, tweed suit, bowler hat, umbrella in hand, small backpack, on his way to work. Could be London.