During Labour Day week, we took a rare vacation, spending four days in Tofino and two days in Victoria.
Tofino’s on the west coast of Vancouver Island, just north of Pacific Rim National Park, where we’d be making day trips. It’s not very far as the crow flies, but the trip takes all day because of the uncertainties associated with crossing the border, catching the ferry, and riding with small children who need frequent potty and snack breaks. We decided to do the outbound portion in one long day.
We left our house about 6:15 a.m. Even with stopping at each of the three rest stops along I-5, we still made it across the border at 9:00 a.m. and arrived at the ferry dock about 9:40, in plenty of time for the 11:20 departure to Nanaimo.
After we boarded, we headed up to the galley for breakfast. BC ferries still serve food whereas the Washington ferries do not. (Labour dispute.) The food was okay considering the venue. While the kids were still nibbling at their meals, I snuck off to the souvenir store in search of something light to read.
I found a variety puzzle book and was quickly sucked into working crosswords, cryptograms and logic puzzles. These books are very addictive.
I bought gas in Nanaimo, expecting that it would be more expensive as we headed west, away from the population. It wasn’t. The mathematical computation of liters to gallons, kilometers to miles, Canadian dollars to US dollars, and supply-side economics to middle-class growth kept me engaged for a while. The math is tricky, but gas at CDN$0.869/liter, works out to about US$3.00 per gallon. There seems to be an opportunity exchanging gas for pharmaceuticals? (For comparison, prices in my neighborhood range from $1.95/gallon (Costco) to $2.07/gallon (Unocal). My folks are paying about $1.61/gallon in Houston.)
A few hours (stops) later, we were in Tofino. It’s a very small town, and finding our accomodations was relatively easy. Shirley, the owner, runs a very informal place: the doors were open and keys on the table for us to unload our stuff. The kids noted the playground next door and pleaded their case. While they were frolicking, I shopped for groceries.
The next few days worked like this:
9:00 a.m. Get up, eat breakfast, get dressed.
10:30 a.m. Go to a beach/rain forest/walking trail
12:30 p.m. Make a food run because someone’s bonking
2:00 p.m. Return to the apartment, hose off the kids, and put their clothes in the washer.
3:00 p.m. Kids go to the adjacent park or badger grandma to read stories
5:00 p.m. Dinner
6:00 p.m. Post dinner activity of some sort, may involve stories, may involve the park.
8:00 p.m. Wash the kids again
9:00 p.m. Bedtime
The first day was at Schooner Cove, a 1 km trail winding through a mature rainforest. The first section had started showing recovery from having been plowed over in the 1950s to build electrical towers.
The later portion was fairly stable. And of course, there was a beach for the kids.
Wickaninnish Beach is the primary visitor center. The kids were too restless to thoroughly enjoy much more than the whale skeleton. After a short walk on the beach, we drove to Ucluelet for lunch.
Long Beach was great, with a very … long beach and lots of driftwood. This appears to be a good surfing beach.
On Friday, we drove to Victoria, home of the infamous Hotel Douglas. Victoria is a gorgeous city, and Beacon Hill Park was fantastic. The petting zoo will often give you a free peacock feather if you ask.
Other observations of the trip:
- The kids were endlessly amused by digging in the sand or climbing on driftwood. On our last evening, we went Tonquin Park to view a sunset. The kids kept digging and climbing. In the background, the local hippies played music and rolled funny cigarettes.
- Staying at a place with a kitchen was a great idea because many of the restaurants we went to sucked — meals took excruciatingly long to arrive, the kids got restless, etc. However, next time, I’m bringing basic things like olive oil, baking soda, and sharpened cutlery. (I admit, I’m a food snob.)
- Doing the outbound trip as one whole thing was better than pinning it on the return. (By that time, everyone was eager to return home.)
- If you’re traveling on the Sydney to Anacortes ferry, and you have the option, go for the center lane. It disembarks faster than the others, and makes it to customs’ line before the unclean masses queue up. There was a Bimmer 757 that had apparently slipped $20s to the appropriate Washington Ferry employees and was primed for the “first off the ferry” spot.