Monday, September 12, 2011

Play It Again, Wen

After a week in Canada, I was ready to come back to the good, ole USA. Canada was pretty and the weather treated us kindly, but everything is so expensive there, not to mention their hefty sales taxes. On top of that we were dinged a three percent foreign transaction tax on anything we charged by credit card, AND the exchange rate in Canada favored their dollar over our's, which made everything even more costly.

But we were on Vancouver Island and had to book passage to America via ferry. Since we were in Victoria, British Columbia, that meant we had to book the Coho, via Black Ball Ferries. Their website is difficult to navigate and by the time I got to the point where I could actually reserve passage (after giving them my name, address, birthdate, citizenship documentation, my wife's name . . . .), I was told that no more reservations for the times I needed were available.

No problem. Reservations are optional, according to the website. Not required, nor even strongly suggested or even just plain old suggested. They said they always have spaces available for drive-ons. That would be me now, I guess.

Still, better be safe than sorry, so I arrived down at the docks at 6 a.m. though the ferry didn't actually leave until 10:30. I was going to make sure I was FIRST in line. "Where you off to so early?" asked the hotel desk clerk when I was checking out. When I told him the ferry, he said he understood.

But the ferry offices were closed. I did find one fellow tourist wandering about, distressed that the office was closed and that the early morning ferry she had planned to travel wasn't even offered now that it was after Labor Day. She was trying to book a passage on the adjacent Victorian Clipper. But I knew there was one problem with that. They couldn't take their car with them on the Clipper.

Suddenly I began to feel anxiety well up inside me. I felt like a refugee in Casablanca, the ones who were hoping and praying for passage through Lisbon to America. If anyone recalls the movie, there was a young couple who won enough money on the roulette wheel to pay for passage to America. They told the prefect they would be at his office the next morning at six to finalize arrangements. He responded that he would be there at eight.

Coincidentally, that happened to us. Not the roulette part. But we were at the office at six, and they did not open the ticket counter until eight. By then several fellow refugees, er, tourists packed around the counter, also hoping to book passage.


By the way, we had tried desperately to garner any shred of information that would tell us what we had to do to get ferry tickets. There was nothing on the website, no information at the ticket counter, or at the vehicle gate. Wendy and I got coffee at the cafe across the street (Let's call it Rick's) and I even asked the cashier there. She phoned her boss but her information proved not to be accurate.

So armed with only second hand information and hope, I approached the ticket counter. The lady said she could not sell me what she said was a "standby" ticket until my car was actually parked in the boarding lot. What??? The gate to the boarding lot was locked.

Apparently not anymore, and by now other refugees with better information than I had entered the lot, parked their cars in the waiting area and bought their tickets, including the one lady I had encountered in the pre-dawn darkness. By the time I had made it to the gate myself, I was number 15 on the standby list. The clerk said the chances of actually making it on the ferry were small. What?! I couldn't wait another day in Canada.


She suggested I drive back up the road about 50 miles to BC Ferries in Nanaimo. They could take me to Vancouver and possibly I could get to America from there. We decided to take our chances here. Number 15 we were. That clerk incidentally had all the charm of Major Strasser, the German villain in Casablanca.





Planes kept taking off in the harbor, probably also carrying refugees to their homeland, I felt. Just like in the movie. Wendy and I had plenty of time to watch them as we waited in our car. Finally, the ferry arrived. Cars exited, then cars got on. Big semis and big campers. Surely there would be no room for us.


But, just like a Hollywood movie, we were finally waved aboard. "We're going home, Sonja, we're going home," I teased Wendy, feigning a German accent. But it was the greatest sense of relief to be on the ferry and see the distant mountains of Washington.

8 Comments:

Blogger TechnoBabe said...

Sounds nerve wracking. I used to love to travel and did so all the time. Foreign and domestic. Now I don't want to travel. I want to have home time and learn new things like gardening and photography. I like reading about your travel adventures, and your narratives are like reading a short story. Fun. Glad you had a nice vacation and got home safely.

2:30 AM  
Blogger Big Dave T said...

Thanks, but oh no, we're not home yet. Far from it in fact, since we're in Oregon this morning and still need to make it home to Michigan. But it just felt good to be out of Canada.

5:51 AM  
Blogger Lynilu said...

During the last weeks of my husband's life, we were at his daughter's house on the Peninsula across Puget Sound from Seattle. Every trip to the VA hospital entailed a trip via ferry. The first few times were nervous-making for me, until I got the hang of the system and understood the methods. Mostly, however, it was such a wonderful time for us. At first he was able to get out and enjoy the sights at the railing for a short while before he tired; later he couldn't leave the car. Still it was a pleasant time, a soothing ride.

Your accounting of the process brought me some interesting memories. Thanks. :)

6:38 AM  
Blogger Yoga in Mirrormont said...

Oregon?! You and Wendy should drop by for a Ménage À Frog; we could celebrate the skunk bears' slim win over Notre Dame and the stunning pummelling of the SPARTANS against Florida Atlantic. Maybe your guys should play at night more often.

Great travelogue, by the way. One of our daughters just received her Masters in Piano Performance from UBC but there is no ferry needed from our neck of the woods to Vancouver. There are more than 300 yoga studios there, by the way.

5:08 PM  
Blogger Carine said...

wow, I guess travel in BC is a lot different that our last trip when our kids were a mere 6 & 8! (21 years ago). sounds like an awful lot of work Dave.

Hope Oregon is a lot easier on you!

12:50 PM  
Blogger Big Dave T said...

LYNILU--I remember the Olympic peninsula quite well as well as the ferry ride. Very beautiful country, though some of its residents seemed like refugees from the 60s. I do think I recall that there are some enclaves in Washington that still revel in that counterculture. Thank you for your comments; they were thought-provoking as well.

YOGA IN MIRRORMONT--I think you have expensive taste in microbrews. They have Menage a Frog in Ann Arbor and it's quite pricey. We're enjoying many cheaper microbrews on the way including tonight an amber ale brewed right here in Ontario, Oregon.

Great game for the Wolverines. My son says if he can't work at another U of M game (he's an usher) he will be happy with the memories of Michigan's epic comeback. But I'm confused. I honestly have been out of touch with sports--you're not saying that the Spartans lost against some island in Florida, are you?

CARINE--We're still in Oregon, but on the border with Idaho, heading home. There are some stressful drives in Oregon, around mountain roads without a shoulder or guardrail, but not as bad as the ferry.

8:59 PM  
Blogger Yoga in Mirrormont said...

Regarding my preposition, above:
I should have used 'by' rather than 'of'.

I only wish we'd had a BYE vs. the Fighting Irish.
'Cause when SPARTANS lose to Notre Dame, it ain't rightish.

We wanna beat Notre Dame gobs;
Losing to them means many sobs.

So as not to be a poor sport, always giving you lipsy:
Hearty congratulations on beating up on little Ypsi!

7:00 AM  
Blogger Big Dave T said...

YOGA IN MIRRORMONT--You're usually so exact in your language, except when shortchanging the exploits of my mighty Wolverines. Speaking of sobs, we discovered a lake in Canada called Sob Lake. Would like to know the history behind that.

We're back home. Didn't spend long in your state but we camped in Olympia and awoke to the call of the barred owl. Way too cool.

7:42 PM  

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