Travels with Barrie and Val - The Big U Turn, Part 11

Thursday, March 28th - Wednesday, April 3rd

On the Thursday, the 28th, we left the RV park in Aldergrove and headed west on the Fraser highway to the Langley Bypass where we picked up the BC-10 West. Not too far from there we found the Airstream dealer in Langley. We had made an appointment for that morning. We wanted the living room furnace repaired as it was blowing cold air and it looked like the gas flame wasnít coming on. Plus there was a rivet on the outside beside the door that had come off months ago. I had dobbed some silicon over the hole. There were also three inside rivets that needed replacing. So we unhooked the Airstream and took off and found a Tim Hortonís!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! We had our first Tim Hortonís coffee in many a month. Plus a couple of doughnuts as well! Boy, their coffee is good. Val figures they must line the inside of the cups with some chemical that makes you addictive to their coffee! Much like the tobacco companies and all those chemicals they put in cigarettes! Good theory, but..I donít think so. I saw a documentary on Tim Horton the other night and him and his wife made the coffee up from many different blends until they found the right one. Well, they sure found the right combination. They are both no longer with us, but Timís daughter married the son of the guy who bought out her mother. When Tim died, she sold out to the other guy, whose name escapes me, for a million bucks. Later on, she realized her mistake and took the buy to court but lost. The guy paid for her funeral when she died, I think in 98 or 99. Thatís life I guess.

After Timmyís, we went to a local shopping center and set up our two pay-as-you-go phones. These were no good in the States, so we hadnít used them since last November but the numbers were still good. But of course, they were both 613 area codes and we had them changed to Parksville area codes and numbers. We also changed our North American Plan phone to Canada 1 which gives us 250 minutes a month. We wonít be into the States until at least next year, so the North American plan wasnít viable anymore and it was costing about $95.00 a month. The new plan costs about half that amount and itís a local call anywhere in Canada. We kept the 613 area code so our kids in Ottawa can call anytime without incurring long distance charges. It will also be useful when we are in Ottawa, which we expect to be a yearly trip.

After that, we went back to the Airstream dealer. When we had first pulled into the dealership, a salesman had come up to us and asked us about the Airstream, what year, 1990, what shape it was in on the inside etc. He said that we could get a really good price for it as people are always looking for a 34 footer. He also said, 'if I was you, I would go to a camp site and park it and get someone to tow it over to the island for you as the cops are going to take you off the road when they see you towing a 34 with a Windstar.' We had heard about this from a number of people from Alberta who basically said the same thing. But we had already read up on this. The ICBC, which is the Insurance Commission of British Columbia, is where one has to go to get your basic car insurance. This has to be topped off from a regular insurance company. The basic insurance from ICBC covers the liability of your vehicle. This has to be topped off with further insurance such as collision coverage. But I digress. The RCMP had been pulling over pickups that had large truck-campers on the back. Some of these trucks were way over their GVWR (gross vehicle weight rating) and this is where 'rumors' started.

But I did go into the salesmanís office to discuss price if we wanted to sell our Airstream through him. He suggested I clean it up and bring it over once we have moved into the house in August. So I told him we would think about it as we werenít sure what we were going to do yet. In actual fact, we had more or less decided to sell the 34 foot once our trip was over. We donít think weíll do the full timing thing again. Certainly not for a year. So we want to move down to a shorter trailer, preferably an Airstream. Anywhere from 25í to 28í.

The trailer was ready around 1500, and we paid the bill, $386.00 which I didnít think was too bad, and headed for the ferry going west on the BC-10. We then left the BC-10 and picked up the BC-99 and a short time later picked up the BC-17 which took us straight to the ferry terminal at Tsawwassen. Right past that campground we didnít like yesterday! There was a one sailing delay. We got to the ticket booth at 1600. It cost us $103.00 for trailer, car and the two of us. I think she under-charged us as people I have spoken to since then said that she probably meant the length of the whole combination, trailer and car. Oh well. Theyíll get me next time. I thought she would get out and measure it with the measuring wheel as they sometimes do but I guess she got lazy. We got on the ferry around 1715 and the crossing took about an hour and a half; and was just as beautiful as we remembered it in 1993 when we first went over to see the island. But the sun was going down and I took some sun shots with the digital. Iíll try and include some with the pics email or possibly with this email.

We landed at Schwartz Bay in the dark and headed for the RV park in Victoria. We had to go down the BC-17 which goes down the length of the Saanich Peninsula. We cut off onto Mackenzie which took us onto the Trans-Canada Highway # 1. We were only on that for about one exit when we got off and went down to the 1A, did a right turn and the RV park was about 500 meters down the road. I had previously called the office from the Langley dealership and had made a booking for a week. The manager left me the site number with a map on the office door. With map in hand, we found the site, backed in and hooked up. Had a beer and realized that we were right next to the Trans-Canada highway with all the traffic noise!! But it did die down later in the evening and it wasnít that bad. Did I mention that it wasnít raining. Well it wasnít raining!

We spent the next week touring around Victoria. One day we went downtown to look for a British 'Sweet' shop that Val desperately wanted to find. After driving around an area where I thought it was, we finally found it. But it had actually moved across the street from where it had been in 93. But it was still on Yates St. We went in and bought some British Baked Beans, candy, treacle tart and, one of Valís favorites, Aniseed balls. You have to be a Brit to understand that last one!

On another day, we went down to the wharf where Barbís Fish and Chips are. This is a well known establishment for Victorianís and I had found this place when we were in Vic back in 93. But Val had been in the hotel with a migraine, and I had taken my daughter with me to check out the fish and chips. It cost $7.05 for one piece of cod and a lot of chips. It also came with coleslaw. A little on the expensive side but the fish was fabulous. Anyone who has been in England and had fish and chips would find these an exact copy. The fish was fresh, being right next to where the boats came in, I expected that but the batter was just like a good fish and chip shop in England. That was the high point of that day.

On another day, we went down to Beacon Hill Park to walk along the sea shore with the dogs. It was quite windy and chilly. When we got back to the van, we started talking to a couple of guys. It turned out they lived in an Oak Bay condo right on the bay. He told me about a pub called The Penny Farthing on Beach Road. Oak Bay is a very affluent suburb of Victoria, and Beach Road is the downtown of Oak Bay. A very pleasant place to stroll around and look at the stores and the pub. It reminded us a little of the main street of Westboro, but Beach Road was even nicer. We didnít go into the Penny Farthing but decided that it was definitely a place to go back too. Which we did at a later date.

After the mad dash up from Vegas, we wanted to use the time in Victoria to get back to normality. So we were glad that we werenít out and about doing the touristy thing most days; so a lot of our time in Victoria was spent around the RV park. But we managed to find another pub down in Esquimalt called Spinnakers. Itís a home brew pub and is in a large old type of building ovelooking Victoria harbor. We had a couple of excellent brews and of course, dinner, which was also very good. Itís not overly expensive, but itís not cheap either; so its a place to go to now and then.

After Spinnakers, we went back to Oak Bay to try out The Penny Farthing pub. This was also a nice pub, but much smaller than Spinnakers. Two beers were almost $10, and Val had a half pint. During this period in Victoria, Bob Alexander and I had been emailing each other. Bob is in the midst of packing up and returning to Victoria from Virginia. But Bob hadnít left Virginia by the time we were ready to leave Victoria; so weíll have to hook up at a later time. But in one of my emails, I mentioned to Bob where our RV park was located and Bob came back with, ďturn right out of the park and you have the Six Mile Pub, say hi to Eric behind the bar, turn left out of the park and you have the Four Mile PubĒ. Well, we got to the the Six Mile but not the Four Mile.

One thing about Victoria, Iíve never met more ex-pat Bruits anywhere else! Theyíre everywhere!! When you go into a restaurant, you donít have to ask for malt vinegar or HP sauce because itís usually on the table already. Being an ex Brit herself, Val is in heaven here.

One day we decided to go back to the British Sweet shop for Val to have another ďfix.Ē I stopped opposite the shop on Yates Street and grabbed my wallet to get some extra cash then went into the stop while I looked for a parking spot which I found at a meter just a hundred meters down the road. I went back into the shop and we looked around and talked to the owner who we had seen in 1993. There was another woman in the shop but as soon as her husband and son came in, they left right away. The shop owner mentioned that the woman had been in the shop for about 25 minutes just looking and the sudden exit after we got there caught her attention. As Val was paying, she asked me for some more money, but I told her that she had my wallet and must have left it in the van as I didnít have it on me. I went back to the van but couldnít find it anywhere. I went back to the shop and told Val who paid for the merchandise with her ATM card. We both went back to the van to search high and low for the wallet. Val went back to the shop to see if it was there but to no avail. We started thinking about that woman in the shop who suddenly left and thought that it was possible that she could have been a pick pocket; however, with the wallet gone, I had to phone MasterCard and CS-COOP to cancel the credit and ATM cards. I have made it a practice not to carry more than one credit card in my wallet, but my drivers license, HIP card, CAA card, Air Miles card were all in the wallet with other non-financial stuff. All gone. We went to the Police Station and filled out a report; but I didnít think anything would come of it. This is going to make it really interesting trying to change my drivers license over to BC. I called my son in Ottawa and asked him to get the phone number of the MTO so I could try and get a replacement license. But when I eventually phoned, OPSEU is on strike!!!! Iíll just have to wait.

Isnít it ironic. I spend five months on the road in the big bad US of A and nothing happens. I come back to nice and safe Canada, and within one week, my wallet is stolen! Only in Canada you say!

Before we left Victoria, we went down towards Colwood which is on the west side of Victoria but right out of town. There was an RV park there called Weir Beach. As the name implies, itís right on the beach. What a beautiful RV park. We were shown around by one of the office staff. Really nice sites, a great central recreation hall with big screen TV and billiard room overlooking the beach. We seriously considered staying there for a week, but decided that it was time to move up island. We havenít seen Parksville or our house for nine years and we were keen to see how it looks today after nine years of being rented out.

Thursday, April 4th - April 5th

We left Fort Victoria on Thursday, April 4th, and headed north on the Trans Canada # 1 highway. As soon as we left Victoria, we had to go over the Malahat pass. I had been over this in 1993 when we were out here on our house hunting trip, but I had forgotten how steep or, not steep it was. Well, it turned out to be a little steeper than I thought. Some parts were about 8 to 9%, but we had no trouble getting up. On the way down the other side, we drove right by a Mountie who was parked by the side of the road. No problem. The # 1 finishes up near Nanaimo and becomes the 19 Island Highway. When we were here in 93, the Inland highway starting at Nanaimo, did not exist, but now it takes motorists around Nanaimo thereby by-passing the old road which went right through downtown Nanaimo. It took just over an hour to reach Nanaimo. Not bad. After Nanaimo, itís about a 20 to 25 minute run with a trailer up to Parksville. When we reached Parksville, we were then on to the 19A Island Highway which is the old road and goes straight through Parksville. At first look, everything looked the same and immediately reminded us of why we liked it so much before. Nice and neat with not a lot of traffic. But in the summer, July and August, thereís a lot more traffic. We found the Park Sands RV Park which is right on the beach. We checked in and got a beautiful spot about 100 yards from the beach. Cement pad for the RV and the Windstar and a cement pad extension for the picnic table. We made sure that we parked exactly how we wanted to the Airstream to sit as we would be here until we moved into the house.

Once we had set up, we jumped into the Windstar and drove over to where our house is located. It still looks great, but the hedge is about four feet high. Just like in the video that Serge Levasseur took when he was holidaying here two or three years ago.

On Friday, April 5th, we checked out another really nice RV park, but they wanted $800 a month!!!! We had worked out a good deal with Park Sands which worked out to $400 month. Believe me, thatís a really good deal. The best deal weíve had since we started RVing. Just think, we were paying $64 Cdn a night down near San Diego! That works out to $1920 Cdn a month!!! San Diego was really expensive.

Saturday, April 6th - June 16th

Over the next few weeks, we familiarized ourselves with the Parksville and Nanaimo area. One of the first things we did was hook up with Tom OíQuinn who actually lives about two minutes from where our house is located. Heís in the French Creek area which is part of Area 69, I think, and is not actually a town but is situated north of Parksville between Parksville and Qualicum Beach. Tom and Sheila have a very nice bungalow, called ranchers out here. One of the first things I did was use Tomís PC to send out my last report.

I also phoned Bruce Davison who lives in Nanaimo. Bruce replaced me in Canberra but I had left when he got there so we have never met. I hope to rectify that sometime this summer.

I got a call Bob Alexander in Victoria who we made arrangements to meet at the Crow & Gate pub just south of Nanaimo. Bob was visiting a high school friend Wilf and we met them at the pub. This pub is right out of England. Itís the only pub I have found in Canada or the US that is really just like a pub in England. It even has two bars. A great pub. A little pricey though. Bob doesnít seem to have changed much from when I last saw him, which was last year. He still has the pickup, the old 47 Mercury? and his Harley Davidson motorcycle. It was great seeing Bob again and no doubt weíll be getting together when heís up here or weíre down there.

We found the town library, which is a brand new building which also houses the City of Parksville offices. They also have a separate part of the building set aside for a high tech area which they hope to induce companies to set up in and start a high tech sector here in Parksville. I donít think so. Parksville is a beautiful place, but itís main industry is tourism, most of which takes place in the summer months. There have been more people coming out here for the winter since 9/11 took place, but weíll have to wait and see if that trend continues.

Weíve been going into Nanaimo quite regularly as itís about a 15 minute drive. It took me longer to get to Bayshore!! On our first trip, we were quite impressed with the shopping thatís available. Thereís Woodgrove Mall, which is the largest of the shopping centers in Nanaimo and around Woodgrove, thereís Home Depot, Staples, a future Wal-Mart, Canadian Tire, Costco, Future Shop (my favorite store!!) and many other chain type stores along with a lot of other local stores. But the thing that we were really impressed with was the Real Canadian Superstore. Itís a Loblaws!! We love shopping at Loblaws and itís the same store except itís a lot bigger as it sells clothing and housewares.

Another thing we have done is join the Newcomers Club here in Parksville. But most of these people, if not all, are a fair bit older than we are. Like in their mid to late 70ís! But we have met a couple. An ex-pat New Zealander and his Cdn wife. It turns out that his wife Edna, was the daughter of a PRC named Bill Macdonald. He was in London as the head guard when I was there but I couldnít place him. Bill died a few years back. But Edna told me that as Billís daughter, she was on a number of postings, one of which was New Delhi. When I mentioned to her that I was an ex-CM she started asking me if I knew of a Bill Dawson. Of course. Well, apparently Bill and Edna dated a few times when they were in Delhi back in the sixties. The other CM there was Pete Nigl! So we talked quite a bit about Foreign Service life and, when we went over to their place a few days later, she brought out an old photo album and asked me if I recognized the guy in the picture. I couldnít place him. She said it was Bill Dawson! My god, I said, I havenít seen Bill that thin in years. I couldnít recognize him!! Boy, what a small world. Theyíre a nice couple and her husband Doug runs the weekly walks that we go on. They go to different trails anywhere from just south of Nanaimo to just north of Parksville then over to Port Alberni which is about 40 minutes away. But we havenít been there yet. Iím planning to do most of my touring when I get my Mazda Miata next year!

Another thing I did was join the Parksville Golden Oldies Sports Association slow pitch league. I havenít played any ball since I was in Canberra with Ray Boisvert back in 1986. Anyway, the first day I went out to a ďpracticeĒ, I managed to pull my left ham string. Which took me out of the line-up for two weeks. When I returned to the team, they were in the second week of the regular season. I played my first game and didnít do anything spectacular. In my second game, I got a really nice hit. I was then moved over to third base, when I went to make a play, my cleats dug in and I re-injured my left ham string! I canít believe this is happening. These guys and gals are older than me. We even have an 86 year old, thatís right, an 86 year old woman on the team and Iím the one who keeps getting injured! So right now, at time of writing, Iím out of the line-up until I get properly healed. Man, am I ever gonna try and learn that those muscles donít quite work the same way as they did way back when!! Hey! Young mind, young body. Well, young mind at least!!

I recently found out that if I get a job, full or part-time, within two years of moving here, I can claim the costs of the sale of my house and the cost of the move out here. Knowing that, I put my CV into the local Ford dealer here when I enquired about a shuttle bus driver position. They might have one coming up. So who knows.

On Sunday, June 16th, we went to Qualicum Beach for the annual Show and Shine car show. There must have been around 300 cars there. Some were absolutely gorgeous and I took a numbe of pics. I also ran into a member of my Z car club here on the island call the Vancouver Island Datsun Enthusiasts. Heís really into Datsun 510ís. If you remember they were quite popular back in the 70ís. They look a little like the old Fiats with a square front and rear. The same Fiats you see running around Moscow. Iím still keeping an eye on Miata prices but seeing a 240Z at the show really got me going about the Z car again. If the car insurance wasnít so dam expensive here, Iíd like to get a Z and a Miata but my financial advisor wasnít too keen on that when I mentioned it to her!

Iíve also included some pics of some of the walks that we take each week. Weíre now into walking on each Thursday and Saturday. After which we usually go to a pub for lunch.

Restaurants. Well, Val and I have always enjoyed eating out and weíve found a superb fish and chip restaurant called Yorkyís that makes them just like in old England. The fish of course is really fresh and the batter is just right. They even have mushy peas. Anyone who has been posted in England will understand what mushy peas are. Theyíre processed dried peas and you buy them in a box and, then soak them overnight and then cook them up. Once theyíre cooked you mash them up and you have mushy peas.

The house. We found out about three weeks ago that our tenant asked if she could move out a month early at the end of June. Thatís not a problem since weíre just sitting here waiting to move into the house; so we gave the go ahead. The tenant also said that we could go and have a look inside the house. We took her up on that. Well, itís as we thought, it needs painting inside and all the carpets need to be changed. Not unexpected since the house is now 10 years old. It was one year old when we bought it. With all the different tenants weíve had in there, itís surprising thereís not any serious damage. In the meantime, weíve been looking at furniture, mostly in Nanaimo. We purposely havenít packed much furniture since most of our stuff was old anyway. So we saved ourselves some money on weight and will spend the savings on new furniture. We decided to re-carpet the whole house and put tiles in the lobby, kitchen and breakfast area. Weíre also going to have the house painted by a pro. Since the house was a rental property, we can claim this work on next years taxes. But thatís not all. When we bought the house, the garden was in such great shape it could have made a gardening magazine. Now, itís a shambles. We had no trees to speak of when we bought the place and now we have a 30 foot cheery blossom tree in the back yard along with a 15 foot fir tree, which apparently will grow to 100 feet! We also have vines growing along most of the fence. So weíve got a bit of work ahead of us when we move in. This year will be cleaning up and next year will be planting new plants. But all in all, the house still looks pretty nice and we canít wait to move in. When we were there, we were looking out the front living room window and see two deer across the road. I quickly grabbed my camera and managed to get a shot of one of them. Iíve included the pic in the pics email. Apparently we also have a bald eagle on his nest at the end of the street although I havenít seen him yet; but weíve seen eagles all over the place.

The Airstream. When we started this trip way back in August of last year, we decided that one of four things would happen with the Airstream when we finished our trip. (1) we would keep the Airstream for any future trips, (2) we would sell or trade-in the Airstream on a shorter 25 foot, (3) we would continue full-timing for another year and keep the house rented out and, (4) we would sell the trailer outright and get most of our money back.

We have opted for option 4. Why. Well, there are a number of reasons. Moving into the house is costing a fair bit of money; so selling the Airstream would offset that cost. We also felt that RV parks/campgrounds are becoming increasingly expensive. Since a lot of our travel after this trip would be in the summer months, we would be incurring the higher costs as this is when campgrounds charge their highest rates. Many campgrounds in Canada and the US do not give very good long term rates, if any, in the summer months. Winter is not a problem, long terms rates are the norm. We also found that whilst the Airstream is a very comfortable trailer, with most of the amenities of home such as TV, VCR, DVD, amplifier, bathroom and shower, microwave, gas stove and oven, dining area, queen size bed and a three seater sofa bed; we felt that we were not campers at heart. This meant having an expensive trailer sitting around that would only be used two to three months a year. And weíre not affluent people! Having said all that, weíre going to try travelling via the motel route and see how costly it is. We think if we plan for each trip, it will be more money than paying for campground fees; but not as costly as having to fork out a very large sum of money for the trailer and a tow vehicle. Then again, we might change our minds and get another trailer in a few years. Now thatís a contradictory statement; but only time will tell.

We have decided not to move into the house until August. This will allow all the work to be done in July so that itís ready for our shipment which will now arrive on August 6th. Also, we are bringing the Airstream back to itís origins at Can-Am RV in London, where this trip started on August 2nd of last year. They have agreed to take the trailer back on consignment, which means it could be sold this year or next. And they have offered us a fairly decent price. The Airstream dealer in Langley offered about $10,000 less. Which makes it worth our while to bring it back east and see family and friends at the same time.

We will be leaving Parksville on or around July 15th. Weíll head through the Rockies via Jasper and then, hopefully, depending on time constraints, stop at the West Edmonton Mall. After that itís a straight dash across the Prairies to Ottawa. Weíll stay in Ottawa for about 10 days and spend the time seeing our three kids and take a couple of day trips to Montreal to visit my mother. And somehow weíll be seeing our friends as well. After that, weíll head down to London and drop off the trailer and hopefully see some old friends down in Oakville. Not a lot of time to fit everything in; but our arrival in London will make a complete circle of our year long trip.

Since we werenít planning a trip east this year, the last report would have been this one, which would have been sent when we moved into the house. Of course, thatís now delayed, and thereís still more to report on our trip east and, back west again.

A quick word on the pics. I really like taking sunsets. Hey, thatís my thing! The ones that are included in the pics emails were taken without a tripod. As a matter of fact, I donít recall using the tripod for any of the pics anywhere on this trip. Which is a testament to how good my HP digital camera is.

Until the next and last report.


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© 2002 George McKeever / Laurenzerberg IceWorks / Last Updated July 16, 2002

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