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I’m in the Garden City

May 19, 2007
Victoria's Inner Harbour

Victoria’s Inner Harbour (Orin O’Neill photos)

It turned out I had the only motorcycle reservation on the Coho’s midday sailing. Several other bikes, including other Seattle scooter folk, showed up later, and none made reservations. Everybody got on.

So, a word to the wise: if you’re taking a scooter, you should have no trouble showing up at the dock in P.A. and getting on without a reservation. And you save yourself $7.50, the “reservation fee.”

After a crossing that was, well, wave-ey enough to cause concern about whether I’d find the PX laying on its side when we docked in Victoria (it wasn’t, not that the wimpy tie-down would’ve made a difference), Victoria Harbour beckoned. If you’re familiar with the area around False Creek in Vancouver, think of Victoria Harbour as a slightly smaller version. The 90s-futuristic condos aren’t as tall, and aren’t as numerous, but they’re there. Unlike the last time I visited, in 1968.

After waiting what seemed like hours to clear Customs, I buzzed onto Belleville Street. You get off the ferry smack-dab in the middle of Victoria’s landmark district. The B.C. Legislature is on my right, the Empress Hotel is on my left across the water, and the Royal BC Museum is over there, somewhere.

Traffic is rather thick, most of it probably having been disgorged by the Coho. I’m headed to the hotel, which is on Douglas Street (aka BC 17), just a couple of blocks east. The PX is showing some fatigue, needing to be goosed to keep from stalling… heat soak, no doubt. The light on Douglas goes from red to green and a flashing green arrow. Okay, what the heck does that mean?

I’m going to guess it means I have the right of way to turn left. Nobody hit me, so I must’ve guessed right.

The Empress Hotel

Victoria’s Empress Hotel. No, I didn’t stay here…

Downtown Victoria is like a lot of Canadian cities, with a slightly European vibe that is somewhat diluted by the presence of Chevy Malibus in traffic and stores with names like “Mr. Tubesteak.” The lights don’t seem to be synchronized in spite of all the buses in the other lanes.

I’m really early… the meetup isn’t until 6:00 pm, and it’s not even 3:00 o’clock when I get checked in. The weather is nice, so going for a ride and getting the lay of the land sounds good. One of the rides looks like it’s going to run along the southern shore of Vancouer Island to a place called Gyro Park. And no, I don’t know if it’s pronounced JI-ro, as in the instrument, or YEE-ro, as in the Greek sandwich.

No matter. I head south on Government, past Beacon Hill Park. There are many places to rent scooters in Victoria, the rentals tending to be Honda Metropolitans or Yamaha Zumas. Lots of people take advantage of this (that’s one reason I wanted to come up with the PX), and Victoria’s compact dimensions and generally mellow traffic make it a pleasant experience. Potentially, at least… I was following a couple on Metropolitans, and the guy seriously overcooked the corner where Douglas becomes Dallas. He’d put his foot down instead of squeezing the brake levers, so he ran straight into the curb and dumped the bike. He tells me he’s okay, so I ride to where his companion stopped and pass the message. In fact, he wrapped his ankle in the handlebars when the bike went down, so it seemed like he’s have some trouble walking at some point.

Heading east along the shore, you’ll find scenery worthy of sofa-sized oil paintings: a lighthouse, beaches, rocks, the Olympic Mountains in the distance across the Strait of Juan de Fuca. There are also fabulous houses, that seem to get more fabulous the further east you go. Victoria used to try to sell itself as a place with a veddy British vibe, the houses easily making you think “British Country Estate.” At least that’s what the real estate listings might say, since many of these humble abodes sported “For Sale” signs.

Somewhere in Deepest Oak Bay, the low-fuel light came on (I’d left Seattle with a full tank and had a quarter tank left on arriving in Victoria), so finding a gas station became necessary. Naturally, there’d be no garish mini-market… the one I found was in a little mall made to look like the high street in a small British town.

Unlike Oregon, it’s okay to pump your own gas in B.C. However, an attendant would be performing that task here. How much is it going to cost? Premium was priced at CDN$1.379/liter, and the PX took 6.05 liters. Eight dollars and… what? I didn’t hear the rest of it, I just gave the guy my credit card.

There are quite a few 50cc scooters in Victoria that aren’t rentals. I think I know why… Favicon

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