After a busy 2016 and early 2017, finally family commitments have all finished and we get to spend some time together as a family .
As with most families in Calgary, kids seem to have their summer breaks organized by their parents in order to spend as much time out of the house as possible , attending day camps or clubs both in and out of the city .
The fact is both parents have to work to pay for these activities, surely the solution would be to stay at home, enjoy free activities , then both parents wouldn’t have to work to pay the fees, therefore enjoying more valuable time with their children .
So after six weeks of endless early mornings for one sons swimming ( why swimmers have to train so early in the morning is beyond me ), late afternoon soccer practices ( football to you non North American folk ), for the other son , my wife having to endlessly change the Calender setting to fit it all in, as well as work during the day ( Wonderful Women) , we have the chance to leave the city and take a trip out west . Vancouver Island
The day before departure, involves , packing, repacking, ( twice in some cases ) deciding what modern appliances we cannot possibly live without ( phones,pads and lap tops , one child even wanted to take a game console !!!!!), cleaning the truck , gas the truck ( Petrol to you Europeans ) rotate the tires ,empty the tool box to allow my wife to take up pretty much the remaining available space. Despite her best efforts to convince the rest of the family she was packing light, we are not convinced, rightly so it turns out .
As cities go, Calgary is a good one . But it’s still a city , and for all its great features I always get a fun feeling when leaving for pastures new . So over the next couple of weeks were out of here, lets hope its a good one.
Day 1 Cancel the Hotel .
When ever I leave heading west from Calgary, the first view of the Rockies along highway 1 never disappoints . The trans Canada highway spans over 8000 klms and is one of the longest roads of its type in the world .
Despite not been a twinned lane road all the way to the west coast, driving it this time of year is relatively relaxing and predictable .The same stretch of highway in the winter months is a totally different challenge .In August, I mainly have to deal with poor drivers towing large RVs ( caravans to you Brits ) with small SUVs , that clearly don’t know how to go round corners without slamming their brakes on , so becoming a total source of frustrating to the ever-increasing line of traffic in their wake .
There are two seasons in Canada . Winter and construction season . This presents hazard number two . No sooner had I managed to get past the rolling road blocks of the city RV driver on his once a year expedition, I enter yet another reduced speed zone , only to pass by a lonely pick up truck parked at the side of the road , amber light flashing , with little of no actual construction work been carried out . I think these are set up for the sole purpose of allowing cops to set up speed traps to allow further taxation of the motorist.
Hazard number three, wild Fires,well smoke from the wild fires burning out of control, at the time of writing over 160 wild fires were currently burning , with vary degrees of control from firefighters . 2017 has literraly provided the perfect storm as far as wild fires are concerned, the worst year since 1958 with over 8500 square kilometers of forest and several towns been destroyed .This all combined to make the drive uncomfortable , but my complaining about not using the air conditioning for a few miles , pretty pathetic really compared to what heartache some people face, due to the effects of the fires .
Despite all this we made great time and arrived at our planned over night stop by 3 pm , way earlier than thought possible , mainly due to the fact the way I approach a road trip . Being an ex truck driver , leave early , don’t drink, no need to pee, stop only for fuel and punch it chewy !!!!!!. My kids know the drill by now .
So the decision was made ( not by me I might add ) cancel the hotel , head for the ferry terminal, catch a late afternoon crossing and risk not finding a place to stay , resulting in a possible night in the truck .
Confidently ringing hotels as we sail from the mainland to Vancouver island , turned into the realization of spending the night in the truck .
Now on an island with hundreds of secluded , quiet spots, with beautiful views of the ocean , I managed to park adjacent to a 24 hour wood yard , with noisy shift change at midnight and 6 am , with a steady flow of trucks through out the night . Perfect .A night sleep was achieved in part by my youngest son, however the remaining members of the party (even the dog) struggled to get any prolonged periods of shut-eye .
So ending our first day .
Started : Calgary Alberta
Finished : Chermainus , Vancouver Island BC.
Distance Travelled : 1050 klms 13 hours driving .
Day 2 Rough Start :
After what can only be described as a terrible nights sleep , a walk around Chemainus at 6 am on a Saturday morning, gave me the chance to take a good look as to what this unique little town has to offer . The first thing you notice is its covered in cool looking Murals , 39 in total .This town had a successful start, thanks to the arrival of the railway in 1880 combined with a successful spell in the logging business.
Following the recession experienced by the BC logging industry in the 1980″s , Chemainus went through some tough times .Although logging still plays a large roll in the towns economy ( my lack of sleep can confirm this ) , the number of people employed is drastically reduced due to modern equipment and processes . The painting of the murals was part of a planned programme to re generate and diversify the town Economy . Today the town has a charm all of its own , combining active traditional industries of logging with tourism and an active harbour area which even provide a BC ferry terminal .
One claim to fame, on January 13th 2006 a Boeing 747 was sunk of the coast of Chermainus in order to create an artificial reef, to encourage divers to visit the area . This success story still faces an uncertain future as many of the projects used to regenerate the area was financed by government funds , funds that are no longer available . I for one think it will survive.
Following an early breakfast at a local dinner, we were back on the road heading south on the trans-canada ( yes it carries continues on the island ) towards Victoria .
Passing through several road construction zones, with relatively light traffic thanks to our early start , it wasnt long before we were in the BC capital of Victoria .
Being located at the southern point of Vancouver Island , it is a booming metropolitan city, with a population in excess of 85,000, which increases dramatically during the summer months .
Being one of the oldest cities in the region , named after queen Victoria, this place has everything for the modern tourist.
Known as the “Garden City”, it also possess a thriving technology sector , attracting labour from all over the world .
The relatively mild Winters ( relative to the rest of the Canada) , this city is a popular destination for retirees .
For the next couple of nights we were going to stay at Hotel Zed . Located ten minutes from downtown Victoria , this hotels is a great example of a great idea .Take an older type Motel building , decorate with bright colours, fill the rooms with art decor items, groovy telephones and lights , combine with an indoor pool for the kids and a great VW camper van all decked out in the Hotels colours for the adults to be shuttled to and from downtown and you have a great, groovy, memorable place to stay .
Dont expect luxury finishes , everything here is basic and in some areas it lacks the finish I like in my hotels rooms , in main the bathrooms are too 1970″s for my liking .