British Columbia, Vancouver Island, Denman Island, May 18-21, 2008

29 05 2008


Conner Pictures Canada

Following several weeks of intense and sometimes ardurous preparation Step and I finally managed to embark on our cross Canada adventure. The first leg of the trip was very social and a little rushed. Our friend Linda is directing an educational television series about Francophone people outside of Quebec who are doing interesting things, and she is moving around BC doing it, so the first night we hooked up with her at her hotel room in Victoria and she took us over to her friends Mark and Jodie’s and we spent the evening playing board games. The game of Careers got pretty heated with half the people playing being hardcore gamers; intent types leveraging any legal advantage such as “bumping” and “bargaining” (that would be me and Mark). The other half of the players were all more interested in being nice to each other and not engaging in ruthless tactics. Linda said the world was already full of self-serving greedy people (I’m paraphrasing here) and she would try playing in a way that was giving and sharing and see how it worked. She actually would have won the game if she hadn’t left early because she had to work in the morning. I learned nothing from this, as I really enjoy the intense cut throat negotiations that can go along with the low-stake practice of board game playing. Despite my sincerests efforts to win, I lost both games of Careers and no one was up for a third.

That night we slept on a side street in Oak Bay. It was our first night together in the Boogie Bus.

Butterfly World is closed


After a great breakfast at the Café Vieux Montreal  (killer food, I highly recommend it) with Linda, and a  quick glimpse of the Shriner’s Clown Unit which  floated by in the Victoria Day Parade, we stocked up  on a few needed items and headed up Island via the  new island highway. Since it opened I have dreamed  of visiting The Butterfly Museum in Coombs but I  have always been in the area at the wrong time, like  when it was closed or when I was in a real hurry. It seemed like the Cross Canada Boogie Bus Tour might finally be the opportune time, but when we rolled in at a few minutes to 5 we found the museum already closed. The Butterfly Curator said he would have let us in anyway but as it was overcast the butterflies had gone to sleep early. Missing the Butterfly Museum once again has only made it more exotic and magical in my imagination. Soon it will be so amazing I will never be able to go because no reality could ever live up to my butterfly expectations.

Step visits the Church of Commerce in the Wacky Woods

Step visits the Church of Commerce in the Wacky Woods

I have visited the Wacky Woods in Fanny Bay many times but Step had never been so as consolation of missing the Butterfly Museum I took him there. The Wacky Woods (also known as The Funny Forest) is the brain child of celebrated local artist George Sawchuk and what it is is a collection of hundreds of “found” art sculptures made from wood and metal and glass and paint that goes on quite extensively in the woods. Some of the sculptures are made from living trees in which he cut a window or hole and filled it with rocks or shells or whatnot and then screwed a sheet of plexiglass over that. Over the years the bark kind of grows around the edges of the glass and the tree has a window in it! Other trees have wooden books with messages painted inside that you can pull out of the trunk. Some of it is quite Lefty and political. It’s a really friendly place with lots of spots to sit down and if George knows you’re there sometimes he plays flute music for you. The Wacky Woods isn’t an official tourist attraction or anything. George Sawchuk lives right beside the woods and they’re part of a wild bird preservation, and over the years he’s just made this wood into a personal gallery. Once the government tried to get him to remove it but neighbours and fans rallied ‘round and the matter was quietly dropped. If you’d like to visit it’s not hard to find, just turn in at The Fanny Bay Community Centre and keep turning left ‘til you run out of road, and there you are. Every now and then you see George hanging out in his workshop. I am so socially awkward I never go over there and talk to him but our friend Cathy says he likes talking to people, so next time I see him maybe I’ll go.


We had to leave before seeing a lot because we wanted to get the 6 o’clock ferry to Denman Island to see this Sawchuk talking-to-friend and her family. Cathy and Dave have two little kids, Roman and Lilly, a dog named Jane and  cats named Esther and Smokey. They have also recently added a few fish which they haven’t bothered to name. One Siamese Fighting fish, which they call a “Ditch Fish”, a few Rainbow fish and one Goldfish they “keep” in the big muddy pond near the house. I asked Cathy if they brought the Goldfish in for the winter but she said they never see him.

Cathy, Roman and Lilly relaxing at home.

Roman really enjoyed playing with the Wii which we set up for him and Dave and Step hung out looking at the Boogie Bus. Dave has a lot of knowledge of cars, campers, and old school buses and was interested in the duel propane/gas system we’d had put in and Step had a lot of questions about how stuff worked. They found a clamping tool one of the conversion guys left clamped to the engine. It was like when a surgeon leaves a pair of surgical scissors in your abdomen, but not quite as life threatening and you can remove it yourself. Once the clamp was removed the Boogie Bus got the Dave stamp of approval.

Cathy set us up behind the house on the lawn. Their house is right in the middle of some woods and you can’t see or hear the neighbours so it was very Gulf Islandy nice. It was the first time we had set up the Boogie Bus with the awnings out and stuff. Later, beer was consumed and we played the stereo. That’s camper van living at it’s finest.

On the Road to Bruce and Lee Andra's

Lee Andra and Bruce in their Amazing Garden

The next morning we went to visit Lee Andra and  Bruce, who have the longest, potholiest dirt  driveway ever seen, which is sometimes populated  with their horse, Stormy. Today the sign at the  beginning of the driveway said “Welcome Rockers”.  You can never know if that’s to welcome the  partiers who come to see music performed on their  outdoor stage, or mineral enthusiasts coming to see  their Rock Gallery which Bruce houses in one of their  outbuildings. When we got to the end of said  driveway we found Bruce in the hothouse planting tomatoe seedlings. Lee Andra and Bruce have lived on their land for 21 years and have the most excellent gardens where they grow all kinds of vegetables and hazelnuts and fruits. They were excited that we were headed for the Yukon because even though they’ve camper traveled quite a bit they said that was their favourite trip and that we had to visit the Atlin area. We spent a good tea time catching up and touring the gardens, and were sent away bearing gifts. Lee Andra suggested their place might be a good location for Step’s 40th birthday, and so far that’s looking like a pretty sweet option.

After lunch at the Guesthouse Café we decided it was time to hit the road again but not go too far. Coutenay is just a ferry ride and a jump away, and also the home of Step’s former inlaws Carol and Bill Tremain. Bill is a retired Air Force Electronic Warfare Specialist (sorry, Bill, we weren’t sure what your Official Title is), so we enlisted his help in setting our altimetre. Carol showed us some amazing pictures she took and gave us road tips like getting up at 4am to miss the brunt of the heavy traffic. We were sure we wouldn’t be getting up at 4am but as it turns out we are getting up earlier and earlier on the days we have to drive just because we need to hit the propane stations while they’re open. We were hoping to get a mention in Carol’s weekly internet newsletter and we did! For the uninitiated, this is a lurel in the wreath of internet presence.

Caroline and Morgan

Caroline and Morgan

Other residents of Coutenay are the Morgan’s  Family, also known as Dave and Caroline Pinel and  their fresh baby Morgan. Anyone who has lived with  a 7 month old baby knows that they rule the house,  and Morgan does a good job of it, but he’s so  baby-cute no one minds. Dave made us dinner and  we checked out his website he was revamping  for West Coast Expeditions. Dave and Caroline are  both kayaking guides with experience in tourism  development that works closely with Native  communities. Dave used to work for West Coast  Expeditions but now he and Caroline own it and  they are putting a lot of elbow grease into it.


Robin in Front of Childhood School


Robin in Front of Childhood Home?

The next day we spent a lot of time doing the final rigging out of the Boogie Bus. I had read in the local paper that Comox Elementary School was to be closed. From K to Grade 2 that was my old school! So I felt kind of nostalgic and we made a little side trip to there and my old Comox street. When I lived there it was the early ‘70’s and it’s been built up a lot since then; it’s so different it took me a while to figure out which house was the one I had lived in, but through process of elimination I think finally figured it out.



We hit the road late and headed north to Port Hardy. I’m sure I must have been north of Coutenay when I was a little kid, but since I don’t remember this was the point of the trip where I felt we were really leaving our security zone. It’s probably a beautiful road but I couldn’t tell you since we drove it in the dark. We got to the ferry terminal a little before midnight. There’s signs saying you’re not allowed to sleep or camp in the “compound”, but they leave the bathrooms open all night and there were Hippies sleeping across a bunch of the bucket seating so they don’t really mean it. This was the night we discovered the day bed in the boogie bus was really a couch, and after a bit of potatoing we made the bed and camped right in the ferry line up, to be better prepared for the 530am boarding call.

Step at Cafe Vieux Montreal, Victoria




3 responses

7 06 2008

wow, what an amazing read! you write really well.
It’s nice to see Cathy and her kids, it’s been a very long time.
Robink, our house in Comox had a long balcony on the front of it and large patio doors, so I am not sure if that is the right house, but hey, you were on our old street and at our old school! It looks so small now. When we were little we had a red VW fastback in the driveway of the house and you were playing on top of it and you fell and broke your nose. We also had a gold 1957 Chevy, I hated that stinky car.
Hope it feels better now.

7 06 2008

I meant your nose, not the Chevy.

7 06 2008
Jeff 2

Rad Blog. So glad u sent it to us to catch the latest in adventures. Hope u continue to have a blast. I can’t believe u ran into Sara.

Lots of luv.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: