I Sea a Plane! – Campbell River, BC

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Only one route traverses north to south on Vancouver Island, so from our northernmost stop at Telegraph Cove we drove back on Highway 19.  This 120-mile journey back to Qualicum Beach was our longest drive while on the island.  Cedar Grove RV Park and Campground was our basecamp for a week of excursions and outdoor fun, the main one being from the sky.

My Honeybunch agreed to be the guest writer for this story, since he’s an aviation guy 🙂 Continue reading

It was a Whale of a Show – Telegraph Cove, BC

Comments 28 Standard

Heading north out of Nanaimo meant leaving most of the civilization behind.  As the roads narrowed to a single lane in each direction, we entered the upper third of unspoiled Vancouver Island North.  Our destination was Telegraph Cove, a small village on the water surrounded by forest.

This little hamlet has only 20 hearty year-round residents, but it gets crazy-busy during the summer months as over 100,000 visitors flood in.  Fortunately our stay was near the end of the season, and things were starting to slow down a bit. Continue reading

The Heart of Vancouver Island – Nanaimo, BC

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When we arrived at Living Forest Oceanside RV and Campground in Nanaimo, two local residents welcomed us to our site.  They kept us company during our entire stay, not because we were the most fun people to hang out with, but only for the unlimited birdseed we offered.  We settled in comfortably at our spacious forested site under tall trees with lots of privacy – loved it! Continue reading

Back to Jammin’ on Down the Road – Cowichan Valley, BC

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Cowichan Valley is the region where we drove back and forth to meet Betsy’s appointed repair schedule.  Our campgrounds were at Crofton, Chemainus, and Duncan, which make up some of the communities surrounding the area.  It wasn’t a bad place to be stuck for a few extra days, as it offered many activities and gorgeous summer weather.  We even discussed coming back for an extended visit someday, minus Betsy and the border crossings! Continue reading

Betsy, don’t fail us now! – Crofton, BC

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The picture of Vancouver Island that I had in my mind was quickly erased as we drove to our next stop.  The island was bustling with activity, and traffic slowed us down on some of the very mountainous roads.  I had imagined a remote, less populated place with few services, which describes a good part of the island, but areas around the small towns and larger cities were bustling, especially this time of year. Continue reading

It Finally Happened – Sidney, British Columbia, Canada

Comments 31 Standard

Crossing borders with Betsy can be a bit stressful.  A large RV has many more potential hiding places than a car does, and the Border Patrol is suspicious of what might be in there even if you honestly declare everything you’re aware of in there.

On this, our 29th border crossing, the three rigs in front of us got through without much delay – we didn’t notice if they were from Canada or not.  We drove up to the officer with our South Dakota license plates, handed over our passports, and prepared for the barrage of questions we’ve answered many times when entering Canada:

 

 

Officer: Where are you headed?

Steve: We have nine planned stops on Vancouver Island.

Officer: How long will you be on the island?

Steve: Six weeks.

Officer: Do you have anything to declare?

Steve responded by reading from our prepared inventory list, declaring a 6-pack of beer and three bottles of wine, and stating we did not have any fruits or vegetables.

Officer: Do you have anything in there we may find that you haven’t declared?

Steve: No.

Officer: Are you carrying over $10,000 Canadian dollars?

Steve: No. (we wish!)

Officer: Do you have with you any Cannabis, in any shape or form – lipstick, makeup, lotion?

Steve: No.

Officer: Are you carrying a gun?

Steve: No.

Officer: Do you own a gun?

Steve: Yes, it’s stored in Arizona.

Officer: If you had your gun with you, where would it be?

Steve: Next to the bed.

Officer: Do you have ammunition with you?

Steve: No.

Officer: Do you live in this rig?

Steve: Yes, it’s our home.

Officer: How long have you been traveling in it?

Steve: Seven and a half years.

Officer: Thank you, please pull over for a second inspection.

Steve and I looked at each other and thought this would be over in a few minutes.

As we stepped out, we gave the keys to our kingdom to a second officer who repeated several of the previous questions, plus:

Officer: Have either of you been arrested before?

We both replied in unison:  No!

We were asked to sit in the office and wait until they were finished.   A few minutes turned into over an hour as they ran through the refrigerator and every cabinet, drawer and cupboard.  Then they extended the slide-outs and we watched helplessly as Betsy was stripped searched top to bottom including all of her compartments.  Finally, they went through every nook and cranny in the car.  Guess what, no gun or anything else illegal found – Yay!

We’ve never experienced a second inspection while crossing into Canada, and had been thinking about what we thought would be the tougher one back into the U.S. in a few weeks.  We were polite and answered the questions truthfully, and yet for some reason they had an eye out for Betsy.  They were courteous and professional, but it wasn’t a pleasant experience.  They thanked us for our patience and said that inspections can take a long time on a big rig.  We were finally on our way!

When we got back inside, we could tell that every door, drawer, bag and purse had been opened, scrutinized and searched.  Even our underwear drawers and laundry hamper had been rifled through 😦

We don’t know why it happened this time, but Steve said he’ll make sure to bring his book along to the office next time so at least he can pass the time!

And we thought our worries were over…

Our site at Oceanside RV Resort

After a short drive we were settling in to our site and plugged in the power.  The inverter/charger promptly let out a loud BANG! – along with some smoke and a heavy burning electronics smell.  Oh-oh!  I grabbed the fire extinguisher, but there were no flames and after several tests Steve confirmed that the inverter had failed but the surge protector, battery charger and transfer switch seemed intact.  Of course this happened a Friday afternoon, on the long British Columbia Holiday!  There would be no repair help until the following Tuesday.

So, what to do?  Should we run back to the U.S. and cancel our itinerary here?  If another component fails can we find an RV repair shop on short notice?  Who should we call for the repair?  Those and many other questions were under discussion. Sigh… 😦

We decided since we could live without the inverter and as long as the other components weren’t damaged we would change our plans if we had to for repairs, but forge ahead.  Steve left messages for several RV repair shops (which are extremely busy this time of the year) and learned all he could about our inverter and what was needed to replace it.

On Saturday he found a replacement inverter and drove over 120 miles round-trip to pick it up.  Now we needed someone to install it, since we don’t have the tools, time or place to do it ourselves on the road.

Our new high-tech pure sine wave inverter/charger – who’s going to install it?

After many phone calls and visits to RV shops we finally located PC Auto and RV Electric, a place that specializes in RV electrical repairs and could take us in a couple of weeks.

With the inverter issue hanging over our heads, we tried to enjoy our time in Sidney.  The bright flowers adorning the riverwalk made us temporarily forget our troubles:

Beautiful flowers everywhere around the harbor

More flowers along the riverwalk

To prove once again it’s a small world, especially when you’re a blogger, a couple visited us at our campsite at Oceanside RV Resort on our last day.  It turns out we have a lot of friends in common with Steve and Diana, and that’s how they recognized us.  And what do you know, they’re Canadians from Vancouver Island!  We peppered them with questions about things to see and do on the island, and wished they could have visited longer.  But alas, they were expecting company soon so we’re hoping to meet up with them again in Victoria on our way back to the U.S.

The following day we continued on to our next stop at Crofton, a short 55-mile drive.  At this point we did not have to change any plans or reservations.  We ran the generator on the way, and quickly plugged in at our site to keep the refrigerator nice and cold.

But on the way there, Betsy started making a new noise that Steve didn’t like at all.

Now what?

 

Next up:  Betsy, don’t fail us now!



 

 

 

Over the Mountains and to the Ocean – Anacortes, WA

Comments 16 Standard

After a week of playing in the mountains near Winthrop, it was time for Betsy to hit the North Cascades Scenic Highway.  We headed west over the highest elevation at Washington Pass (5,477′) all the way down to 26′ in Anacortes.  Our ears were definitely popping on this drive! Continue reading

City of Gardens- Victoria BC

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Following the urgings from several of our friends who had been to Victoria, we decided to go back into Canada when our last opportunity to visit  presented itself.  Steve discovered we could go to Victoria via a fast ferry from Seattle. Since Woodland is only 2.5 hours south of Seattle, we drove (leaving Woodland at 4:30am) and then hopped on the Victoria Clipper Ferry.  For two short days we were back in Canada, visiting the capital city of British Columbia, Victoria.  These were our 9th and 10th US/Canadian border crossings since June, I wonder if they were starting to recognize us?

Stratchcona, Victoria's Entertainment Center

Stratchcona, Victoria’s Entertainment Center

Victoria was named for the British monarch Queen Victoria who reigned from 1837 to 1901, and  has been the capital of British Columbia since 1868.  It is the 2nd largest city in BC with a population of about 350,000.  Known as “The Garden City” due to the abundance of gardens and city parks, Victoria also has an impressive selection of historic sites and heritage architecture.  Its downtown is full of heritage buildings that now house shops and restaurants.

Butchart Gardens

There are a wonderful array of attractions in Victoria, so we had to pick and choose what we could enjoy in two days.  Fortunately, there are several hotels close to the harbor and most attractions are within walking distance.  We discovered that taking the fast-ferry from Seattle actually worked out better for us than the service from Vancouver would have.  The reason is that the Vancouver ferry stops at Sidney, which is about 20 miles north of Victoria.  You can take a free shuttle from Sidney, so it’s no big deal, but unless you want to particularly see Sidney it takes time out of your schedule at Victoria.  However, the fast-ferry stops right at the harbor in Victoria and you can walk to just about everything from there.  We wouldn’t suggest the extra cost of taking your car on the ferry from Vancouver unless you really plan to be there long enough to travel outside of Victoria.  Besides, walking is good for you, right?  We did over 5 miles on our second day!

Sunken Garden, Butchart Gardens

The showpiece, Sunken Garden

Our first stop was the world renowned Butchart Gardens which is also designated a National Historic Site in Canada.  The garden is a century old, created and transformed out of a barren limestone quarry by Robert and Jennie Butchart.  We have been to many man-made gardens and by far this is the most impressive, beautiful and well-planned exhibit.  It has four sections – The Japanese Garden, The Rose Garden, the Italian Garden and the centerpiece Sunken Garden.  It took us about two hours to go around the 55 acres and admire the Butchart’s  passion for gardening then and now.  It continues to be maintained by their descendants. The pictures don’t do justice to this stunningly beautiful and impressive display.

Butchart Gardens

Butchart Gardens

As we  walked around town we noticed a vibrant community and a city with a mixture of the old and the new which demonstrates what  our tour driver has said that  “Victoria is a city of the newly weds (honeymoon destination) and the nearly deads (retirement haven).” We strolled around Victoria’s most famous buildings, the majestic 1908-completed Fairmont Empress Hotel and the 1898-built BC Parliament Buildings.

BC Parliament Building

Fairmont Empress Hotel

Fairmont Empress Hotel

We took a tour of lavish, Edwardian-era luxury at Craigdarroch Castle, the former mansion home of local coal baron Robert Dunsmuir.  Built in the 1890s, its splendid interior features Scotch granite columns, stained glass, oak staircases, and mahogany fireplaces.

Craigdarroch Castle

Craigdarroch Castle

We passed by St. Andrew’s Cathedral, the mother church of the Catholic Diocese of Victoria, which was built in 1890. Its 22-m/72-ft facade features sharply tapered bell towers and materials like red brick, stone and slate.

Inside St Andrews Church

Inside St Andrews Church

Strolling along Victoria’s Old Town revealed hundreds of  heritage buildings of Victorian and Edwardian commercial architecture.  We walked through Fan Tan Alley, Canada’s narrowest street located in historic Chinatown, once North America’s second-largest.

1896 Bank of Montreal building, Victoria

1896 Bank of Montreal building

Fan Tan Alley, Victoria

Fan Tan Alley

Victoria BC

Market Square, Victoria

Market Square

Inner Harbour, Victoria BC

Inner Harbour with the Visitor Center in the background

Inner Harbour, Victoria BC

Inner Harbour

Float Homes at James Bay

Float Homes at James Bay

Victoria harbor

Victoria harbor

We have noticed that in British Columbia, trash cans, postal boxes and electrical boxes are covered with a decorative panel.We saw this not only in Victoria but also in other BC cities that we visited.

Electrical Box Mail Box Trash Can
 Electrical Boxes  Mail Boxes Trash can

And so we had a great time in Victoria coupled with beautiful fall weather.  Then we hopped back on the ferry for Seattle and drove back to Woodland, WA on the second day.