Monday, July 18, 2011

Day 3: Goats on the Roof

Jenine said it would be silly for us to go home. I concurred but we checked out of the hotel anyway (but first we watched a couple from Oklahoma shop for a vacation home in Panama). We drove south toward the ferry making a stop in Coombs on the recommendation of a chap in one of the shops in Cumberland whom we talked to on our first day out. He told us there was a farmers' market there with goats on the roof. He didn't really elaborate on the concept which of course made us want to investigate. The Coombs Country Market is a year-round market but it didn't appear to be a year-round farm stand in that there was no fresh produce to be seen anywhere (although there was some very nice fake produce, see picture below). It was more of a tourist gourmet shopping zone with cool gifty-souvenir-type things, a cafe, a bakery, a deli, and goats on the roof. We bought snacks for the 45 minute drive to the ferry and lunch to eat on the boat, and then had to high-tail it out of there in order to get to the dock on time. We made it there before the boat left but when we asked the lady in the ticket booth if we'd make it on, "it doesn't look good" was all she said. When pressed for a more definitive answer, she repeated her catch-phrase and she was right. There were two hours between the ferry we missed and the next one so we sat outside and got to [finally] enjoy some fabulous weather. Jenine studied while I read, we both eavesdropped on a group of fishermen who were also finishing up a long weekend on Vancouver Island. There were about 15 gents ranging in age from late teens (I heard one talk about his mom not letting him do something) to a mustachioed 60+ (men who fish seem to be the last bastian of mustache supporters). Halibut and ling cod were their prey and judging from their talk and the giant coolers I saw in one of their trucks, they were bringing home quite a haul. The boat ride back to Tsawwassen was spectacular and the entire weekend escapade was a smashing success.
fake produce

A Night out in Courtenay or, Always Listen to the Bartender

We capped off Sunday night by first tearing ourselves away from the Home Shopping Network (as in, watching people shop for homes; I think it was actually the HGTV), then traipsing down to the lobby to quiz the young lady there about dining options in the area. “Casual,” we said, “someplace you’d go, not someplace you’d send tourists.” She understood what we were after and pulled out a book of menus and steered us toward the pubs. We ended up in a pub in the tiny village of Comox about 20 minutes away where the bartender greeted us with a smile and asked us what we were drinking. We said we were eating, and he looked genuinely sorry to have to tell us that the kitchen had just closed, this being 9pm on a Sunday in the tiny village of Comox. We asked him to recommend another place and he rattled off three, the first of which was The Flying Canoe in the Best Western Hotel back in Courtenay, adding “that’s where I’d go.” We got back into the car, both torn by the exact same conflicting thoughts: always take a recommendation on where to eat from a local bartender/why the hell would we go to the restaurant in a Best Western? We decided to just be our practical selves – the Best Western was closest and on the way to the other options so we would check out the vibe and menu then decide whether to move along or stay. We got to the Flying Canoe just as the karaoke was starting. Ten seconds later, Dan, who belted out several “young country” songs that night, was kicking things off with impeccable tone and inflection, hitting every note with confidence, his paunch straining his golf shirt. There was no way we were leaving. We found a booth in the back from which we could hear each other and still have a good view of people who were clearly regulars, singing everything from Kenny Rogers to the Killers, Linda Ronstadt to the Kings of Leon. And with rare exception, these people could sing. Some were just good but a handful, all of whom sang several times, were fantastic. Dan hit every note of songs we didn’t know and didn’t particularly like (new country radio hits) in his golf shirt; Kevin who had a very pronounced limp and nursed a single beer the entire time we were there, knocked his numbers out of the park then slunk back to his table where he sat alone; and Kristie rocked the Linda Ronstadt number, her voice so full of natural projection that she seemed to be holding back a little in the small restaurant lest she blow us all backward. Of course, none were as awesome as Jenine who rocked the room with “Dancing in the Dark” to everyone’s delight, especially mine. After a long afternoon of lazing around our room recuperating from our downhill adventures, it was just the right thing to end the day. Additionally, it reinforced our belief that when you need a recommendation for food or drink, always trust the bartender.
clearly regulars at the Flying Canoe

Jenine singing Bruce

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Day 2: Bikes and Mud. Lots and Lots of Mud

Today we got up early, relaxed in our room, ate breakfast in the Kingfisher restaurant (skipping the 100-item Sunday Brunch) and headed to Mt. Washington for our mountain biking lesson. First we met up with Max who outfitted us in full body armor, a fashion situation I had not anticipated, then we met Cory and Derek who were our lead-guide and helper-guide, respectively. Cory gave us a briefing on the full-suspension bikes we were riding and we rode them around a paved courtyard for a few minutes getting a feel for the handling and brakes, then we rode down a path to a chair lift which took us up the mountain. There were snow banks all over the ground and everything was muddy. And when I say "muddy," I mean MUDDY. Shoe sucking, thick, quick-sand-like, deep, wet, sloppy, slick, soft, soupy, bogs of mud. Which we were about to ride through. The nearly constant rain the previous day, plus the wet, wet summer they were also having on the island made for ridiculously sloppy conditions on the trail, but there we were, two ladies who are mostly game for anything, suited up and ready to go. And the trail was steep. And when I say "steep," I mean STEEP. Death-defying, gravity-challenging, feel-like-you're-falling-forward, double-black-diamond-seeming, winding, narrow paths which cut through the woods (and snowbanks), over ruts and rocks and wooden bridges, which we rode on through the deep and squishy mud. Our boy-guides were champs, offering tips and encouragement as we careened down the trail -- stand up, keep your cranks level to the ground, keep your butt behind the seat on the super-steep parts, look about 20 feet ahead, don't grab a handful of brakes, YOU'RE DOING GREAT!!!... and down we rode. I fell twice, into the mud, bike on top of me, squashed like a bug by that ridiculously heavy bike which Derek had to lift off me, but since I wasn't traveling at any great speed and ahem, was wearing that full body-armor, I was totally unhurt. The steep parts didn't faze me too much (just a little), it was the mud... have I mentioned the mud? The steep parts were hard, but as soon as I got the hang of looking ahead (after the first fall and upon Jenine's insistent advice), that made it easier to figure out the physics of navigating the steep terrain by just trying to keep my body positioned on the pedals (excuse me, "cranks") in a way that kept me upright while the bike was pitching forward. The key was to focus on balance and not the seemingly perilous obstacles on the track which the bike effortlessly rolled over. I had a hard time with the mud though, and if it was super muddy on a really steep part, I would psych myself out a little and end up walking the bike through the bog. My shoes will never be the same. After the first ride down the hill which took about 45 minutes, I knew I was done so I announced to our little crew that one of my greatest strengths in life is a) being willing to try almost anything, and 2) knowing when to quit. So the boys took Jenine up for one more run down the same trail - stud that she is, and they rode the entire way down without stopping once - while I grabbed a New Yorker from the car and waited for their return. The boys were only concerned that we'd had fun, which we absolutely did, and from the comfort of where I type this several hours after our adventure -- in a cozy bed, in a cozy robe, with a glass of wine on the nightstand, J9 mirroring my position in her bed while we watch real estate shows on HGTV, I definitely hope to try it again. Less mud would be awesome.

This really gives NO indication of just how muddy it was.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Vancouver Island - Day 1

Jenine and I got up at the crack of very early on Saturday and made for the Canadian border. We got on the ferry just south of Vancouver and made the two hour crossing from Tsawwassen to Duke's Point on Vancouver Island. After settling into our room at the Kingfisher Resort and Spa, we headed for the rocky beach to inspect our surroundings given that we were experiencing a brief pause in the relentless rain.


After beach combing for a while, we drove into the booming metropolis of Cumberland where we wandered through the business district (approx. 6 storefronts) in the rain which had resumed, then made our way back to the Kingfisher in time for our spa appointments. 

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Olympic National Park

Camping with Ellen, Chuck, Torunn, and Steen - Heart o' the Hills Campground.

On the way to Sol Duc Falls

In the Hoh Rain Forest

Two small woodland creatures