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Return to the Garden City

May 24, 2011
Safety Ed's ET4 and the GTS

Safety Ed gets ready to saddle up (Orin O'Neill photos)

The sun shone brightly as Safety Ed and I departed Denny’s. Good thing; we had a bit of a ride ahead, and it would not be pleasant to have to do it in the rain.

After many years of lamenting the good weather I’d missed, I’d finally be doing a Victoria rally again! Victoria, B.C. (British Columbia’s provincial capital) is a compact city that’s easily navigated by scooter (several places rent them). It’s quaint, but not overwhelmingly so, and is surrounded by beautiful landscapes and oceanfront vistas. The rally — this year called the Zombie Run — takes place every year on Victoria Day weekend, which is Canada’s unofficial beginning of summer.

Much would be new to me on this trip: I’d never been on a BC Ferry, in fact I’d never been on BC 17 and never been to Tsawwassen, where the ferry dock is located. Never been to Swartz Bay, where the ferry docks on Vancouver Island, either.

It was a familiar route to the border, however. Click on the “Maps” link to see it.

Traffic was light, and after a stop to top off our gas tanks with, uh, bargain gas (only $4.199/gallon, way cheaper than in Canada) we zipped across the border at the Truck Crossing and into the fringes of Surrey (which is now Canada’s 3rd-largest city, eclipsing Vancouver).

On previous trips, I’ve taken King George Way, which would still be a good idea if you’re on a smaller-displacement scooter. But now that the GTS is finally running like it’s supposed to, we hopped on BC 99, which is kind of a freeway. And a much more direct route to the exit for Tsawwassen.

While our fellow road users were a bit less mellow than on previous trips by car, those who think your pace too slow can easily pass on the left.

Tsawwassen ferry terminal

The trip west on 17 was noteworthy for the lack of human activity, save for the occasional billboard touting vacation trips to Cuba. I hope I live to see the day such trips are possible for American citizens. My Canadian friends tell me Cuba’s nice, at least in the tourist areas. A large inflow of American dollars would probably make the rest of the place nice, too.

There wasn’t much of a line at the ticket window, and as we got closer the pop-pop-pop of a 2-stroke engine caught our ears. A red and white Lambretta was in one of the other ticket lines. Surely, it’s going to the rally, too.

My card was debited $38 CDN (probably about $42 US); $14.25 for me and $23.75 for the GTS. “Lane 40” said the ticket seller. I found it after riding a considerable distance (there were a whole bunch more), and as I approached the ship I could see the Vancouver group riding up the ramp.

Scooters on the ferry

I pulled in next to the group and waited for Safety Ed. He was right behind me, I thought. I waited a little while longer and then went above.

The BC Ferries were privatized a few years ago. There is much talk of doing the same in Washington state. The Spirit of British Columbia offers a glimpse of what that might be like — there was a Coca-Cola ad on the back of my ticket, and the rest of the ship is a shopping mall, complete with a pricey food court and licenced premises. The trouble is, most of the WSF’s runs are only 30-60 minutes, not enough time for any meaningful shopping.

I said hi to the Vancouver folks, and ran into Allstate Bill (who’s riding a P200 with a sidecar these days). But there was no sign of Safety Ed. I was getting worried, so I called his cell phone. No answer. Geez, I hoped he wasn’t still sitting on the dock.

I finally saw him in one of the small non-retail spaces. Somehow he’d gotten in the wrong line, and boarded last. *Whew!*

He’s met up with the Lammy rider, a fellow named Rich who was delivering the bike to his brother on the Island.

Gulf Islands lighthouse

The ferry wound its way through the Gulf Islands on its way to Swartz Bay, at the upper tip of Vancouver Island. Safety Ed and I went on deck to take in the fresh air and sunshine, and met a fellow named Vince. Would you like to ride with our group, he asked. He would be taking the scenic route to Josh’s place, then another scenic route into town. Why not? Safety Ed and I were not on a schedule.

Once I figure out where and how we went, I’ll create a new map. As I said, I’d never been outside of Victoria, so all of Vancouver Island was a revelation. We wound through a verdant landscape that offered occasional glimpses of the surrounding sea before arriving at Josh’s house, a charming little cottage across the road from a small protected bay.

Josh's place

Josh is the local scooter wizard, which worked out well for Rich. His Lambretta was having carburetor issues, so it went into the garage while the rest of us enjoyed the view. Which among other things included watching 737s and Dash 8s on final approach to Victoria International Airport (YYJ), which was not far away.

The smell of pot was quite noticeable. Well, this is the home of BC Bud, after all.

Having gotten Rich’s Lambretta working again, it was time to head out. Josh would be leading us into town — in his Chevy Optra. I must admit, I’ve long thought a pace car would be a good idea on some of the scooter rides I’ve been on.

We once again wound through a lush, verdant landscape on roads that were not only pleasantly twisty, but much smoother than you’d find in my neck of the woods. WSDOT should ask the B.C. Transportation Ministry for its asphalt recipe.

Stopped for a light behind the pace car

Farms and country estates soon gave way to signs of suburbia. We’d passed some places I recognized from 2007, though they looked much different in the bright sunshine.

We passed a sign pointing to Butchart Gardens, a famous tourist attraction. Back in the day, they kinda took it upon themselves to attach a little sign to your car when you parked in their parking lot, kinda like the “Where the Hell’s Wall Drug” things. This came to an end when cars stopped having big chrome bumpers with gaps that made it possible to wire a cardboard sign. But I’d never been. Now I know where they are. Next time.

Suburbia then gave way to the city. The Garden City. We’re here.

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2 Comments
  1. May 24, 2011 7:58 pm

    stay and be happty.

  2. May 24, 2011 9:18 pm

    Got back Monday night. I don’t want to be an illegal alien, so I’ll just have to find a Canadian woman to marry… it worked for my scooter friend Ducks…

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