Tuesday, September 9, 2008


"Be careful as you go on the 4. Tourists stop in the middle of the road to look at bears and you can't see around the curves."

With that suggestion from To, the proprietor of our beach shack sent us on our way. 

A splendid day for a drive back from the semi-wilds of BC to Seattle's busyness. 274.2 miles (449 km) as the crow flies. 

We left just after 11:00 and it took us 1.5 hours drive the 80 or so miles to Port Alberni and then about an hour to get to the Duke Point Ferry Terminal for the 3:15 sailing on the Coastal Inspiration

Guess what? No bears. 

Frankly, I am kind of disappointed about that. Not that I would have liked to rammed my car up someone's tailpipe, but it would have been nice to see some of the other denizens of the forest out there doing whatever it is that they do (fishing, gathering berries, digging through trash, mauling unsuspecting tourists who stop in the middle of the road to take pictures, etc.). 

I highly recommend dawdling on the 4 if you can. It is an incredibly pretty drive with some startling vistas, especially along Kennedy Lake going up towards Clayoquot Plateau Park. Snow was still in evidence. We would have done so had we not had to make the ferry. 

Here are some other random observations from the day:
  • It is really nice to have friendships strong enough to sustain the pleasure of company for a week with humor and naturalness. Thanks R and D. 
  • Never attempt to drive long distances on nothing but a bowl of hot cereal and some tea, especially after running for three miles (and not very well). I was starving
  • Every other vehicle in Port Alberni seems to be a large pick-up truck. Evidence? 8 or 9 of them got on the road as we were coming along. Judging from the layout of the area though, these are trucks that are used for their designed intent
  • The pretzels in the snack shop at Duke Point were, as M put it, a little scary looking, the cookie, however, was not so bad (I cannot bring myself to eat a Nanaimo Bar though. Can someone explain the attraction?)
  • Bored sullen teenagers working in snack shops are the same world over. Texting is more important than helping customers and they let you know it (especially if you cast audible aspersions about their pretzels albeit sotto vocce)
  • BC Ferries new Coastal Class boats are amazingly cool—well-appointed, comfortable, clean (they actually get cleaned), fast, and everything else you'd want in ferry. BC Ferries has its problems but both M and I have serious ferry envy on behalf of the State of Washington
  • Orcas are amazing to watch. We saw at least 4 cruising on the surface between .75 to 1 miles away from the boat. Everyone but the woman yakking on her cellphone about being "dripping with gold at the moment" (gag!) stopped what they were doing and just looked. You might think this strange but in all my time bobbing around in a kayak in the area this is the first time I've actually seen Orcas. Unmistakable and cool. Do it again!
  • Starbucks Hot Chocolate from a machine is nothing to write home about
  • "I heard you were dead." is a very cool way to start a novel
  • I always pick the wrong line at the border crossing, always. For every one car going through our lane, 6 or 7 were going through the other
  • What is it about border guards that make me lose my ability to pronounce simple phrases like "Chesterman Beach B&B"? Actually, can you do that fast?
  • It felt so very odd, even unnatural to be in "heavy" traffic on the I-5 starting at about the Skagit Valley. Yes were were traveling at 75 mph (120 kph) but it was so damn crowded and then there was the guy with a red passport but driving an silver Acura SUV with Nevada plates that started driving erratically just north of Lynnwood (yeah, you buddy). In two weeks I'll have to be driving in the thick of this every day. Nuts.
  • David Sedaris's "Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim" is a remarkably nutty way of passing the time flying down the freeway (thanks PT). This man is truly screwed up, no interesting, no funny, no ironic, no screwed, up no observant, no . . . 
  • You would think that pets, deprived of their owner's affections and attention for a week or so, would be extremely happy to see their return. What does it say when the CATS are happier and more affectionate than the dog? Yep, our dog is actually mad at us and wanted to go home with the house sitter. (!?!?!?) It has been at least two hours and she still does not want to be in the same room with us. Tomorrow should take care of it. She doesn't know it yet, but we are going running
  • I did not immediately want a cheese burger when I got back into the country. Pizza? Now that is another story. MMM. Pepperoni, Italian sausage, mushrooms, black olives, green peppers and onions over mozzarella, tomato sauce and spices. Heaven in a box but it is going to mean some miles under my feet.
  • Though I don't want to, I am going to have to immerse myself in the cesspool that has become the campaign if only to help guide my students through the putrescence we like to call political discourse. I wish this country would be something other than adolescent for a change (Oh wait, what an elitist statement to make!)
  • Six days remaining of Summer 2008 and then it is the return to the assembly line at the Learning Factory. Don't like to think of US Undergraduate Education in such a way? Tough. "Oh Captain, My Captain!"
  • Everything seems so quiet without the sounds of the beach . . . but this is not necessarily a good thing
Anyone care to lay odds on how long our house is going to stay clean? 

Oh, and this is where I got the map. 


Stephen Spencer said...

Welcome back!

I saw lights burning in the house earlier this evening, but was on a mission (OK, I was on my way to and from the grocery store).

Jake English said...

Sounds like it was a good trip. Oh how I miss the PNW. Perhaps someday I'll get to come back, if I can get a plane ticket under $1900 from DC to Seattle.

GVB said...

Welcome back my friend. The reentry can be painful indeed. I ease the pain by looking at the calendar and plotting my next escape...hmmm winter break in Mexico? Why not...