On to Canada and Hello New Friends!

Before I get to this episode, I want to thank all the new friends from around the world who have signed up on my blog.  This last week has been amazing, and I cant wait to share my story with you. Youve all inspired me to take on greater adventures in the future.  I cant wait to tell you about them as they go beyond the thought stage into planning.

Since you are coming into the journey more than 3 weeks into the story, please feel free to go back and read some (or all) of my previous posts. I hope you enjoy them.  And please feel free to comment, share on Facebook or Twitter, and get the conversation started.  On to the story

As I awoke, I realized it was time to move on. I had debated over the last several days what to do.  I seriously considered taking the Alaska Interstate Waterway Ferry to Juneau.  Ive always wanted to go to Alaska, and this ferry trip looks amazing.  People camp on the deck of the ferry, and it takes you up the Inside Passage.  But it was already getting late into August, and the weather can get very sketchy.  I checked the forecast and it looked like 3 days straight of rain.  Camping on the deck of a ship in Alaska in the rain sounded like voluntary misery.  So Alaska would have to wait.

My other option was to head south for home.  But it just didnt feel like it was time yet.  Plus Tofino had become more and more important for some reason.

I packed up and said my goodbyes and thanks for the amazing hospitality.  Jon, Liz, Lloyd and the kids (and dogs) were a pleasure to spend time with, but it was time to escape the lap of luxury again and get back on the road.

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I had one quick stop to make in Vancouver to see my old friend Dan Hagen and his lovely wife Karyn.  They were getting ready to settle into a new apartment in North Vancouver for a few months, and I hadn’t seen them in several years.

I drove north out of Bellingham to the border.  The customs agent spied me suspiciously.  I’d already lost count of how many people came up to me and asked me if I had weed.  I guess the old VW bus is like a target on my forehead that says “pot smoker”.  He asked me where I was going.  “Tofino.”  What’s there, he inquired?  Hopefully waves, assuming he saw the surfboards on top of the bus.  Hope long are you staying?  “Just a couple of days”, I replied.  He asked if I had any alcohol and I copped to the half bottle of bourbon.  “Firearms?”  No sir.  “Ever own one?”  No Sir”.  “Have a good trip.”  And I was in Canada.

I drove north another few miles and got on Highway 1, which traverses the entire country.  I headed west into Vancouver, and started to cry.  The emotion of the moment caught me by surprise.  When I was in Bellingham, at one point I thought about turning around and heading back, as that was my original destination.  The thought of crossing into Canada was just a lark, since I was going to be so close, I could say I went to Canada.  But at some point my destination changed to Tofino, and the decision to move on was obviously important for reasons that I didn’t quite understand.  I soaked up the feeling and was as in the moment as I’d ever been.

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I found Dan’s warehouse tucked in a nice new light industrial office park.  He and his partner Trevor are building a digital signage network and their growth of the last couple of years has been staggering.  Dan’s one of the best sales guys I have ever worked with and Trevor is the technical genius.  They make a great team.

Karyn joined us with their new puppy and she and I walked across the street to Deep Cove Brewery to fill a growler.  We sat in the warehouse catching up enjoying the great beer.  They invited me back to their new apartment, which Dan hadn’t even seen yet, and then to grab dinner.  Dan and Karyn spend time in both Vancouver and Washington State, and this new pad was close to their work.  I had a feeling I’d be spending the night, which was fine with me, as I really love these guys and don’t get to see them nearly enough.

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I’ve lived a blessed life, having been able to travel and do business all over the world.  This has led to my making friends spread around the globe.  Some of my closest friends live thousands of miles away from me.  And I never know when I am going to get to see them again.

The apartment was lovely, with a spectacular view across the bay to downtown Vancouver.  It was a full moon, which was just setting over the city.

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We hit the town of Deep Cove for dinner. Dan’s oldest son, who is an up and coming investment banker in the city, joined us for dinner.   The elusive sushi restaurant we never found in Friday Harbor sat in front of us.  We gorged on rolls, washed it down with cold sake and Asahi beer.  It was glorious.

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They pulled out the couch into a bed for me, and as they went to bed, I tucked myself into the chair on the deck and caught up on some writing.  As my head started bobbing I decided it was time to turn in.  I had a big day of driving tomorrow.

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We arose early for a hike.  Dan is the fittest 50-year old in the world.  Seriously.  He is ripped, with sub 10% body fat.  While most men dream of having 6-pack abs, Dan has an 8-pack. And he looks like he’s under 40.  He takes really good care of himself, eats right, treats his skin with care. If I had it all to do over again nah.  There’s no way I would have the discipline.

Anyway, the three of us drove back to Deep Cove and hit the Quarry Rock Trail, a quick 3-mile out and back hike to a marvelous rock with an overhead view of the harbor.  The trail was impeccably maintained, lots of elevation changes both directions, and a credit to the BC parks department.  It was a great way to start the day, and the perfect excuse to eat donuts.</p>

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Photo courtesy of VancouverTrails.com

Photo Courtesy of Peterson Photography via 604Pulse.com

We went to a Honeys, whose donuts were legendary and the muffins were moist, fruity but not too sweet.  The good thing about exercise is that it affords you the opportunity to occasionally splurge on life’s little pleasures like this.

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Photo courtesy of Miss604

I bid my friends farewell, and we promised to see each other more frequently, all knowing that this was somewhat out of our control.  I pointed the bus towards Horseshoe Bay and the ferry terminal to Vancouver Island.

About half an hour later I turned off Highway 1 and followed the signs down a big hill.  The terminal approach is intimidating, and I had the feeling that if I made a wrong turn I was screwed.  I didn’t have any Canadian currency, and was pretty early so wanted to get some more coffee.  I decided to follow the signs to town.  I parked and strolled to a Starbucks, and found an ATM machine.  Armed with caffeine and cash, I bravely backtracked up the hill and landed successfully on my second approach.  The lady at the kiosk charged me C$75, advising me that I was slightly oversized but wouldn’t be paying extra, and she directed me to lane 8.  I pulled in behind a line of trucks, and sipped my coffee.  A street vendor offered to sell me a newspaper, and I chose the one with the story about El-Nino vs the Blob.  I figured I could always use it to start a fire.

The line of cars ahead of me started rolling so I started the bus and inched forward.  They directed me to a spot on the port side, I set the brake and headed up to the passenger deck.  I went to grab a cup of coffee and watch the ferry pull from the dock.  The ride was smooth and the views were spectacular.  After a couple hours we were there.  I headed back to the bus, crossed my fingers, and turned the key.  She started right up.

I followed the line of pickups and vans up the ramp and onto Vancouver Island.  I had no idea what to expect, but what I saw was about as far as possible from my vision.  Nanaimo is a pretty big town, full of big box retail, strip malls and car dealerships.  I was a little disappointed, but I was moving on so didn’t dwell on it.  I was heading for a town called Qualicum Beach, where Karyn’s mom has a weekend house that was going to be vacant.  She offered to let me park in the driveway for the night.

I got there in the early evening before the sun set, so drove down to the shoreline, pulled out my book and sat on a bench and read for a while.  Families walked along the promenade, and a few brave romantic couples snuggled up on towels strewn across the rocky shore.  We all watched the sun set into the water.

I felt a little self-conscious about popping the top on the bus and alerting the neighbors to a vagrant camping in the front yard.  So I decided to string up my hammock in the back yard.  With a view of the ocean and the moon almost full, it was a good decision.  I grabbed my sleeping bag and read for a while and dozed off under the stars.

Thanks to the neighborhood chickens, I awoke before sunrise.  I decided there was no reason to dwell, so I packed up my stuff and set out looking for a coffee shop in town.  Qualicum Beach is a sleepy town, and pretty much looked like a retirement community.  This was confirmed when I figured out that the earliest a coffee shop opened was 8:30 AM.

I had no choice but to push on to Tofino and hope to find coffee on the road.  Luckily I scored within the hour. Freshly caffeinated I was ready to tackle the winding roads across the island. The scenery was amazing;  so many lakes, rivers, mountains.  I saw deer and black bear crossing the road.  There were tempting riverside campsites everywhere.  But I was determined to make Tofino today.</p>

After coffee I had one more stop to make…

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