We rode north to the Mill Bay ferry in a cold mist. The tiny passenger area below decks provided warmth, and an interesting conversation to eavesdrop. A woman on holiday from Newfoundland was name dropping political figures to a fellow passenger, as if she was a political insider. She even recounted a personal conversation, as if it were a secret, with the current Prime Minister. She presented herself as an expert in political science and at one point said, “Now, there’s not much I admire about the American system eh, but at least they kick their leaders out after eight years…” It was interesting that she felt the need to preface any positive thing American, as being a most unusual exception, before proceeding.
This is just the sort of thing I had hoped for, to see ourselves as our northern neighbors see us—from the outside looking in. Canadians have something of a love/hate relationship with the U.S.—who doesn’t, come to think of it—and we hope to get a sense of how that translates into relations on a person to person scale.
Later in the day the sun returned briefly at a lunch stop on the dock at Maple Bay. It was almost enough to make us forget the very very steep hill we had descended to get there, and would have to pedal back up. A real-estate man and his client arrived. The woman had peroxide hair and gold chains disappeared in the folds at the back of her reddening neck. She jingle-jangled with bracelets and rings as she and the real estate agent talked earnestly about waterfront properties, values, and upside potential. We, and the glorious view, were invisible to them—an all too American scene.
“Keep it going, your stroke looks good!” enthused an old man in thick British accent. He was working in his yard as we passed, as are so many in this garden and lawn crazed place. A bit of olde England in the colonies, eh.
In Chemainus, self proclaimed “town of murals”, we lingered for the murals, and for people watching. Two old men sat on a bench and spoke in German, perhaps about the lovely young woman in the blue surge suit, carrying a briefcase and walking with assurance; they followed her short skirt with gray eyes. Later I showed one of the old men how to use the paper towel dispenser in the men’s wash room. “Danka,” he said, “Danka,” and nodded earnestly. I could only offer a smile, from the language universal. So they’re not all English here.
In the Cowichan Valley we were caught suddenly by a hard shower and I drove Zippy straight off the road and under a small grove of locust trees. While we waited, a train whistled for a crossing, echoed off the hills, and we remembered train whistles from other places, other journeys. A surprise sun sparkled the slow raindrops.