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Ucluelet, BC 8 September 2019


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We saddled up and rode away from our Enchanted Cottage in time to line up for the 9:20 Vesuvius to Crofton Ferry. Amazingly, Ganges was very quiet on an early Sunday morning, not a shadow of yesterday's craziness.


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We were about the fifth car in line, but by loading time, there were thirty cars ready to load  --

Oh my! I just saw a Bald Eagle fly by our Ucluelet window with a fish in its talons and two sea gulls chasing it!

-- as I was saying: and we knew we were heading out of the (relative) calm of SSI and onto the much busier, faster world of Vancouver Island's "Discovery Coast." 

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After debarking in Crofton, we twisted about some and then were on the Trans-Canada Highway, a multi-lane speedway with cars and trucks whizzing along at 55+ miles an hour (90km/h) ...and then there's a stoplight! Wha? 

Stoplights on what might otherwise be a freeway just doesn't make long-term sense. Economically, it saves "the state" but not the whole system, once you include the cost of all those cars screeching to a halt – they don't have to, but that's the way folks do – and then jack-rabbiting back to 90km/h. Then the cost of the fender benders (and worse) that happen because the drivers are habituated to driving erratically – not a nice smooth 55mph plus or minus 10, but zero to 90 to zero again and again – and the increased danger of bunching up traffic that wants to travel at disparate speeds. Short-sighted.

Areas of intense recent development – like Salt Spring and the Discovery Coast – further demonstrate Canada's fumbling of long-term planning. Billboards everywhere, intense traffic congestion where intelligent planning would make better flow, failure to preserve the qualities that make the area seem so attractive. Result: LOTS of For Sale signs around Ganges on SSI, suggesting folks who came for serenity are moving on. 

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Lunch at an unexpected gem in Port Alberni called Pescadores Bistro – their version of a bloody mary named something we can't remember, a classic Eggs Benny, and Oysters very lightly cooked with hollandaise over a bed of fresh spinach. NICE combinations.

   This is the kind of restaurant with a graceful middle-aged waitress who calls you "Hon", where there are signs like

MISSING
Husband, fishing
pole, and dog.
REWARD for dog

 

Pescadores Bistro


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In 1959 (!) I came to Port Alberni with my family – it was late summer, after I'd gone to a National Science Foundation Summer program at Oregon State in computers. This was back in the days when the US thought science might be important. My father and mother fetched me in Corvallis and we headed up along the same path we've been following: Port Townsend, Port Angeles, Victoria. I have no recollection of why my father decided that taking the Mail Boat from Port Alberni to Ucluelet would be fun – maybe it was the "fjord," maybe he was already thinking about birds – but we took a day trip from Port Alberni to Ucluelet, walked around, had lunch, and then rode back up the fjord on the Mail Boat. I vividly remember the greenness, the isolated little First Peoples' village out on the far Pacific Coast of Vancouver Island.

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Well, there's a road now – no surprise – and the southern west coast of Vancouver Island has become a hot tourist destination, in part because the Nature is so big, it's going to be really difficult to commercialize and spoil it (but we'll find a way!)

So this is a sentimental return to a corner of the world on the brink of losing itself to progress.

 

These stately big trees, mostly Cedars, but Firs right alongside, were spared, for some unknown reason – reminds me of the Kauri trees, distant relatives of the Redwoods, similarly primitive, with no senescence gene. They harvest 99.9% of them before someone said, "Geez, maybe we oughta save a couple?" The British were rapacious in their colonies, more so even than the Americans, so these giants are a bit of a miracle, and judging by the number of parked BC cars, a big attraction.

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Well, most of a road. There was a big delay where they're blasting around the horn, and the west end suffers from weather ...but it got us there!

 

This is the Vancouver Island I remember! It's so green. It rained on us; it sunned on us. The road wound past a couple of long narrow lakes – wannabe fjords – and along a temperate rain forest river – the Taylor.

LOTS of traffic going the other way: it's Sunday, and they're heading back for work.

We got to the stress free zone in time for a visit to their fine little catch-and-release aquarium, where young staffers showed us things we didn't know about.


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<p>Ucluelet Aquarium</p>

Ucluelet Aquarium

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Ucluelet Aquarium claims to be "the first Catch and Release aquarium in Canada (if not the world?) By "catch and release" they mean they collect specimens from a local bay, making careful note of where each came from, and then, at the end of their season in November, they put them back.

 

Here's the view out our window (before the fog came in.)

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After our dinner salad, we walked uptown (2 blocks) to Ukee Scoops for a bit of ice cream therapy. We were walking along talking about where we thought it was and a First Nations fellow said, "Where do you need to go?" 

"Ice cream," we said.

"Up to the right. If you get to Mary's, you're too far." And jumped in his truck and zoomed off.

At Ukee Scoops (where the doorstop was made to look like a dropped ice cream cone, where a friendly fellow sat down next to us and said, "I'm going to do something illegal" as he poured some liquor onto his ice cream. "Gravy," he explained. "You know what happens to you when you do something illegal in Canada?"

"No," I admitted, sensing a Canada joke on its way.

"Ayuh. Someone tells you, 'you did something illegal.'"

Brings to mind the "Canada Moment" during the awards ceremony at the US Open, when Bianca Andreescu apologized to the crowd, "I'm sorry. I know you wanted Serena to win..."

And there's the oft repeated Canada joke, "You know how to get Canadians out of the swimming pool? You say, 'Please get out of the pool.'"

Individually, every single one we have encountered has been polite, interested, interesting, and, dare I say it, cultured. Try THAT on in, say, Los Angeles, New York, or Saint Louis.

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