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

We stopped at a campground of the Chemainus band of First Nations (First Nations is Canadian for Natives/Indians). The folks at the band-run Mohawk gas-station/convenience store, told us the campground was closed, but that we were welcome to camp there free, and use their bathrooms. We like free. After setting up camp, we came back to the station to buy some food and visit. Not all native peoples are open to whites, understandably, but the Chemainus we met were uncommonly friendly, and we enjoyed talking.

One young woman from the band told me of her experience working in nursing homes. She noted that many old people didn’t want people from other cultures (races) taking care of their personal needs.

“You mean white people didn’t want you helping them?” I asked.

“No, not just white people, our people are the same way; people of all kinds of cultures want their own kind to take care of them when they are old. It’s how they were brought up eh?” Here was a minority expressing that racial segregation was sometimes okay, was the right thing to do in some situations. Getting out and listening is also a good thing; life and issues are not always as simple when seen through the eyes of another.

Alone in the campground, our little blue tent nestled deep among the huge firs, we slept deeply until awakened by a winter wren to begin our third day. The clouds looked more serious, and they would prove to be so, signaling the beginning of three days of rain.

On the way into Nanaimo we were stopped by a newspaper photographer. It’s amazing that after so much time on the road with Zippy, we haven’t developed a sound bite to the question, “Why do you do this?” Love of travel and adventure and people, is not a simple thing to explain. It’s one of those you-had-to-be-there questions.

In Nanaimo, we saw a bicyclist probably having more fun than even we. She was pushing her bike around the driveway, stark naked and pink with the cool rain. She was about two years old.

It rained all that third day, waves washed across the road and we were soaked to skin, every inch. We finally gave up and parked Zippy beside the windows of a rural restaurant, much to the amazement and delight of diners, and dripped our way to a booth. We both ordered the lunch special. The chicken was batter-bag spiced, the carrots sweet and soft, the potatoes dry and the gravy muddy and weak. It was wonderful. And so was the strong coffee. One of the regulars, a logger in hickory shirt and high water jeans, kept filling my cup, and smiling. I had an urge to tell him what a tree-hugger I am, but thought better of it. Everyone in the place played keno; the air was blue with damp smoke and musty with wet wool. It’s been raining all year here and everybody is crazy—but nice.

The bad thing about riding a couple of hours in a downpour, is not the wet, but the black grit that finds crevasses of one’s clothes and person. Don’t ask what crevasses. You don’t want to know. So, being thoroughly miserable, we opted for a very reasonable B&B on the beach (= $31 US), hosed off Zippy, each other and everything we own. The friendly owners, Bernice and Ted, allowed us use of their washing machine, before serving coffee and cookies for us and a young German couple also staying there.

After we and our clothes were clean, and Zippy was washed and oiled, we had time to enjoy misty views of Georgia Strait, and the heavy hills surrounding us. In the soft light of the late afternoon, a weak sun fluoresced a rain so diaphanous it danced on the air; it sparkled like cold snow against the dark cedars.

The next morning we were treated to fresh fruit cups, cereal, coffee, stacked waffles and Strauss, for the Germans no doubt, but Claire and I waltzed in front of the large bay windows with the sea views. You’ve heard of a dinner-dance; we had a breakfast-dance.

Bernice and Ted, both in their mid sixties, watched us load Zippy and asked questions. Ted wondered aloud if he could convince Bernice to try a tandem. Neither have ridden a bike for many years. Why not eh?

Just up the road from there, we saw a sign, “Speed Kills Again. Slow down, the Life you Save might be Ours.” Many flowers in a cluster surround a formal portrait of a couple, an anniversary picture perhaps. They are mourned by many here. A local slowed and beeped when he saw us studying the scene. There was a memorial collection jar for them at a local store. For the children?

And I thought only Americans were crazy in a hurry.