Great American Road Trip: Part 6

Canada

August 6–10, 2018

The Black Ball Ferry from Port Angeles, WA to Victoria, BC runs three times daily. It is possible to reserve spots for a vehicle in advance, but many people just show up a few hours before departure time in order to get a stand-by spot the day-of. I got to the port about 4 hours before departure, and was given stand-by number 17 (they told me I didn’t have a very good chance of making it on the next boat). In the time between, I grabbed a coffee, got caught up on some emails and writing, and bought some postcards to send to some friends. Back at the port, I was the next-to-last car to fit onboard the ferry! I felt very lucky that I didn’t have to wait another 5 hours before the next one.

Full House on board the Black Ball Ferry

The ferry ride to Victoria is about 1.5 hours. During summer, it is quite common to spend the first half of the ride in a dense coastal fog that seems to hug the Washington coastline. However, once in the middle of the straight, the fog disappears and you can see the beautiful Canadian coastline basking in sunshine. While the Olympic Peninsula is far more impressive from the water with it’s massive mountain peaks, the sunny skies and foreign coastline excited me. I kept an eye out for a potential orca sighting, but managed only to spot a porpoise.

The entry into Victoria Harbour brings you past numerous whale watching vessels, sea planes, and “pickle boats” (water taxis). The port of Victoria is very cute and touristy, especially on a warm sunny day. I passed through customs just fine and headed toward the University of Victoria to see two of my friends from Tallahassee. My friend Eric shares a sailboat with some friends, and the next day took me for a sailboat ride in the waters off Victoria. It is beautiful sailing close to the islands here, where you can see seals poking their heads up above the water’s surface, floating kelp beds, the distant Olympic Mountains across the Strait, San Juan Island, and even some rock formations of First Nations People. We had some fresh fish & chips, I showed the neighborhood kids the fire truck, had a run along the coast, and enjoyed catching up with each other after about 6 years.

Sailing with the Olympic Mountains off in the distance.

After two days in Victoria, I said goodbye and headed off to my next ferry — this time toward Vancouver. I had always heard that Vancouver was a beautiful city and I was very excited to see first-hand. Unfortunately, I didn’t really have any idea what to do or where to go in the city, so I just kind of ended up somewhere close to downtown, parked Bob, went for a swim, and grabbed some dinner and a beer. I found my way to Kitsilano Beach around sunset. On a warm sunny day like this one, it was packed with people grilling, drinking, and just enjoying the (apparently very few days of) summer weather. I watched the sun set over the distant mountains while looking over the sound.

The next day I decided to start my day with a swim at the aquatics center. This way I could not only get some exercise, but also a much needed shower :). There is also a great Conservatory in the same area as the pool. I spent just over an hour in the Bloedel Conservatory, looking at and learning about a variety of plants from various tropical environments, admiring the many types of birds, and also enjoying the free wifi. It was then mid-afternoon, and I thought I would try to check out Vancouver’s famous Stanley Park. I opted for driving around the peninsula instead of parking and riding my bike, as I still wanted to have time to check out other parts of the city. However, with the intense heat in the city, I thought I would also forgo some of my other plans to maybe have a swim in the sound again and cool down.

I pulled into Sunset Beach park, right in downtown Vancouver and overlooking Kits beach. When I pulled in, I noticed another campervan just next to me, with a guy inside seemingly cleaning out the van. He had Florida license plates, so I thought I’d go say hi and see where he was from. This was one of the best decisions of my trip so far. I met Francisco, a 24-yr old Argentinian guy who is on quite an epic trip of his own — he has driven from Miami to Montreal, Montreal to Alaska, and is now traveling from Alaska all the way down to Argentina. You should check out his Instagram and Facebook accounts.

Bob and The Bethovan becoming buddies.

Francisco and I chatted for about 30 minutes or so about our vans, our journeys, and our plans. We decided to go do some things on our own and meet up later for a swim and to cook some dinner together. It was a fun evening chatting and enjoying the beautiful weather, and we figured out that we were both planning on heading down to Seattle next on our travels. At about 10pm, we decided we should move to a spot where we could stay for the night (overnight parking isn’t allowed at Sunset Beach Park). We headed to a park a little bit outside of the downtown area that we had read was friendly to campervans, and pulled in the parking lot to find at least 10 other campers already set up for the night.

The next morning, we woke up to find a bunch of other campers were already awake and going through their morning routine of making coffee, breakfast, and re-organizing the boxes and bins for the next day’s adventure. We all got to chatting about vanlife and our travel itineraries, where we have been and some of the challenges and excitement that comes with traveling and living in a van. There were people from Virginia, Vancouver, Sao Paolo, Spain, California, and Quebec. After an hour or so, it was time for Bob and the Bethovan to begin our journey southward to Seattle.

We headed south on the interstate for a little while before exiting at Bellingham to take the drive toward Chuckanut. The drive along this part of the sound is worth it on it’s own, but we followed a tip from one of my Instagram followers and stopped for lunch at Taylor’s Shellfish Farm. This place is a real gem. Right on the Sound, you can try many of the different oysters grown just in front of the building. The staff told us about the flavor profiles of the different oysters, then gave us a 6-oyster sampler. You could really taste the differences among all the different kinds of oysters!

Enjoying some fresh oysters with quite the view over the sound. You can see the oyster farm in the water.

After our quick and small oyster lunch, we hit the road for the last stretch before reaching Seattle. We pulled into the Green Lake district, had a swim in the lake, then I went off to meet up with a friend of mine who was staying in the area. More on Seattle in the next post.