You know when you are so overwhelmed by a to-do list, that you end up contemplating what to do longer than it would take you to do said list? Well, that is what pretty much happened during our road trip to Vancouver Island this summer…
I had made a massive list of things to do each day down to how long each thing should take, where to stop for food, etc. and ended up not even looking at the list once we got on the road. I was on vacation, why do I want to be stuck to a strict schedule?! As we learnt early on the first day, there was no way no matter how hard you tried that it would be possible to follow an itinerary based on construction, accident hold ups, scary mountain roads, busy traffic, taking the wrong road, getting lost, etc. so I said fuck it to our plans and just drove and did what we wanted, when we wanted.
Our first day on the road was an early one, we wanted to maximize our distance and get as far as we could. This was my first time leaving Alberta as a driver, and while I have been a passenger on these roads many years ago, and have driven long days before – I didn’t want to push myself too far on the first day so we decided to settle down in Kamloops via Revelstoke for the night. (Little did I know until our last day of our trip, that going through Jasper would have been much faster as it is an hour shorter, and we had so much construction delays – oh well, it was scenic!)
Just as we got outside of Edmonton the sun was starting to rise, and Josh is FREAKING out over the beauty! I was concentrating on the road but could see slivers of colour through the rear view mirror. I HAD to stop, this was too gorgeous to miss. I knew there was a small truck stop coming up so I got ready to pull in to there safely and watch the vivid colours of the sunrise appear. It was magical. I had never seen such a gorgeous sunrise like this one before. We took a few photos, sang “Purple Rain” and got back on the road to get to our first stop of the trip: Starbucks in Gasoline Alley (Priorities, am I right?!)
The next bit of our trip was pretty uneventful, we stopped at a few side of the road rest stops to stretch and take photos of gophers and rivers. We finally made it to the Giant Cedars Boardwalk trail just outside of Revelstoke, a nice welcome after spending nearly eight hours in vehicle. We enjoyed the trail and being among ancient cedar trees that smelled SO GOOD! (The info board at the boardwalk says that these trees were seedlings when Christopher Columbus was crossing the Atlantic on his first voyage to the New World in 1492, when the Mona Lisa had dried in 1506 they were now saplings, and when the first performance of Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet in 1595, these trees had been alive for more than a century! – AMAZING!) I then accidentally bought the most expensive gas I bought in my life at $1.699/L as the damn Chevron in Revelstoke had the Premium gas button on the left rather than the right, and I totally did not pay attention to that – OOPS!
We then made our way to a campsite in Kamloops in hopes they still had a spot available as I didn’t want to book anything in advance as plans change on the fly! Thankfully there was still a few (and free showers!), we set up camp, made some dinner that we both weren’t too fond of (we were testing out some “just add boiling water” meals on our road trip for preparation of our backpacking trip in September), made a campfire, got devoured by mosquitos and called it an early night. I didn’t sleep well that first night, I kept hearing something in the grass just on the other side of the fence (or my imagination was playing tricks on me with the sounds from the water sprinklers in the field as I was somewhere unfamiliar.)
We had a very early start to our second day, showered in well water for the first time in my life and was not too fond of that – I didn’t wash my hair because of this, and instantly regretted it. (My hair is a curly frizzy mess the best of times, so to deal with it I put it in a top knot when still wet to contain it. Doing this dry on my hair does not work and will be a frizzy mess instantly. Throw in humidity (which we had in just a few short hours), and it’s absolutely ridiculous!) We just finished putting our camping gear away as it started to rain. Good timing!
We headed into Kamloops to fuel up and get some breakfast before making our way to the island via Hope. It was a rainy, foggy morning and it was absolutely beautiful! I HAD to find a spot to pull off of the road to take some photos – thankfully we had found one that was safe to do so that also had a great view! Driving through the mountains and clouds was incredible! (Although it was a little nerve-wracking at times!) We got to Hope and just got through in time of the road opening up after a semi on fire had closed the road throughout the early hours of the morning and made our way to the Othello Tunnels. I had been here before, but Josh hadn’t been, and I knew he would enjoy it. Plus, I wanted to walk through the tunnels without the crippling fear that I did as a child. (Nope. Well, I wasn’t AS scared, so that sort of counts! I also forgot to bring my headlamp – the iPhone flashlight is by no means a proper flashlight!) Once we took in the sights of the tunnels, we made a beeline to the Tsawwassen ferry terminal – we got there with just enough time to grab a map of BC, and Josh to get some hot dogs for lunch and catch his first rare(ish) Tauros on Pokémon Go (and promptly brag about it to his Poke’friends – haha!) before our ferry left for the island. I didn’t want to risk getting motion sickness during the ferry ride, so I sat outside for the duration staring blankly ahead – not that fun, but the last time I was on a ferry I got sick and TMI – left a bit of me behind on the ground in Battery Park, NYC. I did not want that to happen again. Thankfully the weather was great and the waves were pretty calm.
We got to Swartz Bay and drove to Victoria’s Fisherman’s Wharf to have some seafood tacos for dinner. OMG I HATED driving in downtown Victoria so much! The tacos were alright, but while I was eating I was searching for campground availability and having a minor panic attack as the campground we had planned to stay at was fully booked. I was searching for something close by (even looking for hotels or B&B’s) and finally found one that might be the one. I gave them a call and they had a spot for us, THANK GOODNESS! But one thing, they were closing up shop in 45 minutes or so and it was on the opposite end of Victoria that we were on (with construction along the way) and we weren’t done eating… We scarfed the rest of our dinner down and pretty much ran back to the Jeep to get to the campground in time. I don’t think Google maps was giving us the best directions as it felt like it took us on a wild goose chase, but we made it JUST on time! WHEW! We sat up camp, ate some crème brûlée for dessert and played bananagrams until we went to bed. This was probably the best night’s sleep I had on this trip.
We woke up as the sun was rising, got our dew-soaked camping gear put away and got ready for the day. We learnt how to take really quick showers in the one dollar for a five-minute shower that this campsite had (a skill that would come in really handy in a couple of days) and was a luxury we were yet to have known about. This day we weren’t really too sure what we wanted to do – we had our plans, but could not find one of the trails we wanted to explore so we just decided to wing it.
We spent some time in and around Sooke, walked down Whiffin Spit, enjoyed an INCREDIBLE lunch at Shirley Delicious, went to a few beaches (had a lovely dog run in the water, run up to me and shake off all the water on me – it was hilarious!) and spent a lot of time sitting on the rocks watching the waves crash on the shore. I probably could have spent all day here, but it was getting HOT and I was starting to get a bit sunburnt and did not want to get dehydrated.
We then made our way to Pacheedaht Campground in Port Renfrew for the night. We lucked out here as there weren’t many tent spots left, we wanted to camp on the beach but those spots were all taken. We got one just at the edge of the sand, so it was close enough. I think this was the moment that I decided that maybe having a self-sustaining camper van would be ideal for these kind of trips. (Don’t get me wrong, camping in a tent is great – but with a van you could just pull off anywhere safe and sleep. It is harder to do that with a Jeep full of camping gear) We took a nice walk along the ocean after we set up camp. I got soaked from a massive wave as I was taking a photo of my “Road Trip 2018” I drew in the sand which then destroyed what I worked so hard making! Haha!
Just as we were about to make dinner a loud siren goes off. We have NO IDEA what that was… we look around and no one seems concerned. We ask this one family close by what that was and the guy was like “oh, it might be a fire alarm, or maybe a tsunami”, his wife then replied nonchalantly “yeah, I think it was the tsunami one” and continues on with what she was doing. WHAT?! Here I am absolutely freaking out inside, but know to stay calm especially if this is going to be an emergency. We ask what to do, and they say that “they” will come around and let us know. (They being officials or the campsite people) Ok. I go back to make my dinner, but grab my phone to check if there are any warnings. My phone has no reception. Great. Oh yeah! I have a GPS with text (sure it takes 15 minutes to send and receive a message but at least I can have peace of mind) I run through a list of people I know in my head that I could message. My parents don’t have a cell phone to text, who is the next most responsible person I know? Brad! I will send him a message to check if there are any warnings. Texting on that GPS is a nightmare when your hands are shaking. We get confirmation that there is nothing to be alarmed of. WHEW!
We go back to the beach and sit on a massive log and eat our dinner as we watch the waves. This was one of my most favourite moments – we enjoyed our food, and each others company. We then hung out in our tent playing bananagrams and got to bed early so we can wake up early and get the heck out of there. This was THE WORST sleep of my life. While listening to the waves crash on shore is usually relaxing, there was still part of me that kept paying attention to the waves crashing on shore making sure there was an appropriate amount of time between each one.
We survive the night! What a relief! We find a place to grab some coffee and get out of there to go to our next tsunami zone, Tofino… welp! We stopped at Crofton for a minute to show Josh where my Grandparents used to live and headed on the long drive to Tofino. Again, campsite issues where the one we wanted to go to was FULL! I found one close by and decided to stop in as soon as we go there – they had availability! It was a park in the parking lot and walk your gear in kind of campsite which was neat and it smelled beautifully of cedar. (I am totally obsessed with the scent of cedar now!) We were the only people there which was actually kind of freaky. (Thanks imagination!) We set up our camp and headed out to explore Tofino, a couple of beaches, and the Rainforest Trail (we did trail B). We were planning on doing a lot more hiking this day, but rest was much more needed than hiking, we were both tired and not feeling too well so we had a pretty chill day. (We didn’t even stop for tacos at the renowned Tacofino – GASP!) I decided that next time I am out this way, I am definitely going to try out surfing!
The next morning we woke up super early, showered in the one dollar for one minute gross well water shower with a nice spider friend hanging out in the corner (told you the other one was luxurious!), got coffee and weren’t too sure where we were headed that day. We stopped at Cathedral Grove did that trail, I was still not feeling so well so we decided to make our way to the ferry in Nanaimo and go from there. I didn’t feel like sitting outside on the ferry ride, so I sat at the window looking out. Well, I immediately felt nauseous and made a beeline to get outside (with the help of Josh, because damn I was woozy!) I sat on the floor looking out to the water the whole ferry ride, my head resting on Josh’s shoulder. This was not how I wanted to spent my vacation. By the time the ferry ride was over, I was feeling better. Better enough to be screaming at traffic all the way to Hope. (That road is sure busy!) We grabbed some lunch in Hope and heard the road we were about to head on was closed due to an accident. FUCK! I didn’t want to go any other way, so I took a chance it would be opened up by the time we got there. We were still about an hour out from where the accident was so there was still time. Magically, the road had opened up as we were about five minutes away from the scene of the crash and traffic was back to normal and they were just getting the van out of the ditch. We continued on to Kamloops where I was thinking we were going to stay the night, but a fire had started on the side of the mountain and it was getting really smoky so I decided to say, fuck it – let’s go home. I think I was just cranky at this point and wanted to sleep in my own bed.
Yep, that is right – we went from Tofino to Edmonton in one day. (I DO NOT recommend this especially with only one driver) While Google maps says that this is 17 hours and 23 minutes, it took us exactly 24 hours (stops along the way to take a break, gas up, eat, get coffee, dance on the side of the road, etc). The rest of the drive was not fun. I took it gas station to gas station knowing I could stop at any time, but I just wanted to get home. Traffic on this road was awful! There were semis driving RIGHT behind us, there were large trucks being inconsiderate, it was scary at some spots. I wasn’t driving like a grandma, but I was taking it safe as there are a lot of wildlife in the area. The last thing I wanted was to hit a moose and roll down into the river…
We finally got to Jasper. RELIEF! I know the rest of the way home like the back of my hand! The next four hours are going to be easy! There was a huge storm somewhere in the distance, I was not looking forward to that. Thankfully it died down by the time we got to where it was and only drove through some rain. This road, like always seemed to never end. Eventually there was daylight in the distance, a warm welcome from driving through the darkest of the night (thankfully for only a few hours!) It was only the last hour of driving when I actually started to get tired. Which is unbelievably absurd, but I am thankful for. We drove into the parking lot of our apartment, put the Jeep into park and kissed the ground that we made it safely home. I thanked Josh for being THE BEST co-pilot one could ask for, and we hauled our stuff up in the least amount of trips possible, and crashed on our comfy bed for the next six hours.
The trip was a day or two shorter than we planned, but was really nice to have a couple of days at home before I had to get back to work. All in all, misadventures aside, our trip was great! Being outside continuously (aside from driving) for five days was absolutely incredible! I just hope that the next time I head to the island, I have a lot more time to explore!