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Winding on Down


Vancouver Island has really turned my head around. Let me explain.

I am staying the night at Rathtrevor Beach PP, in Parksville, waiting for the Ford dealer to finish an oil and transmission fluid change. I had a peculiar experience last night. I walked down to the beach to watch the lingering coals of the sunset. The actual orb had already retired for the night. Light continued to come up from below the horizon for a long time, shading the low clouds from pink to rust as it faded. The sea beneath was a shade of pastel phosphorescent green I'd never seen before. One of the best sunsets ever.

Only it wasn't.

As the stars came out, I spied Ursa Major overhead, and the old bear told me immediately that I was looking directly north. I rose up off the log, shaking my head, and turned around. There, directly south, a faint sunrise was making its appearance. Just that pale lightening in the clouds that you get right at first. I did a couple of spins. Sunrise. Sunset. Sunrise. Sunset.

Help! I'm trapped in Fiddler on the Roof!

Now, I don't know for sure, but I'm guessing that what I took to be a sunset was in fact some sort of reflection from the sea and clouds, though it certainly had the centered quality and the intensity of the real thing. The sunrise has to be the lights of Nanaimo, scattered up from behind the headland.

This question remains. Can a guy who thinks the sun rises in the south and sets in the north ever find his way home?

And does it matter?

On to mundane matters. People have asked me: Is traveling is cheaper in Canada? Would it be a good place to retire? The answer turns out to be surprisingly complicated. There's a 31% difference in the currencies. Prices of campgrounds turn out to be about the same, from $15 to $33 per night. So are the prices of many goods and services. This oil change and transmission flush, for example, is exactly the same price I paid last year in Austin. $221. So I saved the 31%. If you have a big ticket item to buy, you can save a lot here, but only if you don't have to pay it anyway as duty at the border.

Gas, otoh, is expensive here. About $.86 a liter, which figures out to $2.25 a gallon US. I was paying $1.48 when I left Austin, so that's a 50% premium. Depends on where you are in the US. All in all, I think I saved a lot traveling in Canada. If you don't count the heart attack, of course. Maybe even there. How much you save depends on how much you travel, which is true of RVing everywhere.

How about retirement? Well, if your funds are in US dollars, you can save 31% right now, which ain't hay. I saw 5 acres on a hill right over the ocean for $100,000 Canadian, along 19A south of Campbell River. Winter weather on the Island is said to be mild. But all the talk I hear about new hires here turns out to be somebody closing something down a cannery or a mill, and needing temporary help. So things remain chronically depressed here on the Island. While that continues, prices will be low.

You could qualify for Canadian Medicare as a landed foreign resident. But what will happen with that may be problematic over the next years. Right now it's still a pretty good deal. If you can qualify both here and in the States, you will have choices.

You pays yer money, and takes yer chances. I like it here, but maybe not enough to move.

Traveling towards Victoria, I somehow got on a bypass at Nanaimo, so I can't say much about that city, except that it is larger than most up here, and has its complement of Walmarts and such. It didn't take long to get tired of the Canadian version of an Interstate, so when I saw a sign saying Cowichan Bay, I swung left, startling the staid traffic.

Thus I discovered the "Seaside Route", which led me to several small interesting dockside towns. Typical is Cowichan Bay itself. I ate lunch at the Rock Cod Cafe, whose portions were as generous as its menu was ordinary. The pan-fried oyster appetizer was pretty good. And there were some massive pieces of cod being handed out on the fish n' chips platter. But I am a Southern boy, and I know that fish are supposed to be fried in a light crumbly coating of corn meal, not the tough slick carapace of dough favored up here.

The meal was saved by the ice cream place next door, where I discovered two flavors I have never tried, which I hadn't thought possible. Roasted Coconut and Real Orange with dark chocolate chips. How to choose? I ate them both. One after the other.

I missed several fine hilltop views of the coast because no one in Canada is allowed to turn left. It is a little like downtown Portland, that way.

Before turning east into Victoria, I thought I'd have a look at the Juan de Fuca strait from the Canadian side, along the road to Sooke. At Potholes Provincial Park I met a guy who told me I ought to continue on to Port Renfrew, at the end of the road, where there is supposedly a campground right on the Pacific, with "a view that goes on to Japan".

How can I resist ?


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